Meet Connor Jones – Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition

There is a delicate balance on Fishers Island with regards to preserving and protecting its natural habitat. But under the watchful eye of Connor Jones, project coordinator for the Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition, its future is looking brighter.

“Conservation on the island and its surrounding coastal waters is important because there is such a finite amount of space that, once a habitat is degraded or fragmented to a certain point, it can be very hard to restore,” says Jones, who joined the Museum’s staff in March 2020. “Once that habitat is gone—whether it is a seagrass meadow, an upland meadow, a saltmarsh, or a hardwood forest—you also lose the ecosystem services it provides and that habitat’s associated flora and fauna, some of which may also be important to local economies.”

Jones is a full-time employee of the H.L. Ferguson Museum with a position funded by several grants. A trained ecologist with a background in marine science, he received his undergraduate degree in biology with a focus on ecology from Binghamton University in New York. He earned a Master of Science degree in marine science at the University of New England in Maine, where his master’s thesis involved a two-year project in which he worked closely with a local mussel farm to determine a baseline of the physiological health assessment of blue mussels. “Blue mussels are an important species to Maine’s coastal ecology and economy and face an uncertain future as water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine continue to rise,” he explains.

Like the blue mussels of Maine, seagrass on Fishers has an uncertain future, but Jones is steadfast in his commitment to help the Coalition accomplish its goal to conserve this vital marine resource. To accomplish that, along with the Fishers Island Conservancy, Jones schedules and organizes Coalition meetings and outreach events for the island community, as well as off-island stakeholders. Jones also serves as a liaison between the Coalition and its partners, including the Town of Southold, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), The Nature Conservancy and SeaSketch (the online mapping program the Museum is using to designate seagrass management areas) and he works closely with Elizabeth McCance, the president of the Museum, to write grants that keep the Coalition’s work funded.

While he must wear many hats, Jones says conservation on Fishers Island is less daunting because of its small scale. “It is easier to wrap your head around conserving and managing the 347 acres of seagrass surrounding Fishers as opposed to, say, all of the seagrass in New England or all of the seagrass along the coast of Connecticut.” 

Did You Know?

On December 7, 2020, the Henry L. Ferguson Museum became the recipient of a federal grant to support the work of the Fishers Island Seagrass Management (FISM) for stakeholder engagement and planning for eelgrass protection on Fishers Island. The grant totals $44,798 with grantee matching funds of $33,661 for a total conservation impact of $78,459. It is the first federally funded grant awarded to the Museum in its history.

The grant will deliver an outreach program to stakeholder communities presenting scenarios for eelgrass protection at Fishers Island, New York, and New London, Connecticut. It will include the development of a management plan based on community stakeholder input.

The grant program combines funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

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