Grania “Binti” Ackley
Binti is a longtime member of Avalonia. She was a nature kid growing up and, after time spent as a theater stage manager and later a nurse, she is happily back to nature again. She has served Avalonia in multiple capacities over the years as Stonington Town Chair and Town Director and is currently serving on Avalonia’s Board of Directors (BOD) as secretary and is a member of the Governance and Stonington Town Committees.
Karen Askins is a former Peace Corps volunteer, biology teacher, and software trainer. A 30-year resident of Ledyard, she is a passionate gardener with a special interest in native plants. Birding, hiking, and fiber arts round out her interests. Karen chairs Avalonia’s Stewardship and Ledyard Town Committees and is a member of the Acquisition Committee.
Richard Davis Conant Jr.
Richard “Dick” Conant has a masters degree in Marine Science and is recently retired from a 33-year career with the federal government working as a marine biologist for the National Park Service, a freshwater wetland biologist for U.S.D.A., a wetland regulatory biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and finally as an environmental director at the Naval Submarine Base New London. Dick has lived in Mystic with his wife, Catherine, for over twenty years and they have three sons. Dick is an avid hiker and skier and recently completed the Appalachian Mountain Club’s “Hundred Highest” peaks in New England and a quest to ski all 89 of New England’s alpine ski areas. He chairs Avalonia’s Development and Griswold Town Committees and is a member of the Government and Nominating Committees.
Scott Dawley has a degree in forest technology from Unity College in Maine. He has worked for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for 34 years and currently holds the position of Eastern District Operations Supervisor in the Parks & Forest division. Scott is a member of four Avalonia committees: Acquisition, Communications and Outreach, Stewardship, and the Griswold Town Committee.
Russell “Rusty” Morrison is a former U.S. Navy submarine officer who currently works in the pharmaceutical industry. An avid hiker, Rusty is a longtime member of the Stonington Town Committee and is serving on the Acquisition and Stewardship Committees now too.
Dennis S. Main, Avalonia’s current BOD president, has an MBA degree with a concentration in Finance and Accounting from UCONN and experience as a financial manager with the State of Connecticut. He is also licensed in Connecticut as a real estate broker and is a contractor for forestry management projects with the U.S.D.A. He and his wife, Renee, reside at Mainagery Farm in Bozrah and have two grown daughters, Carrie and Rachel. He has served on Bozrah’s Inland Wetlands Commission, Board of Finance, and is currently chair of the Board of Assessment Appeals. Both a Norwich Golf Course and Audubon Society member, Dick enjoys forestry, gardening, and golf while up North and kayaking and bird stalking in Florida during the wintertime.
Michael Pernal has a Ph.D. in higher-education administration from UCONN. He recently retired from Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) where he served as executive vice president from 1998 to 2013 and, in 2006, as interim president. During his years at ECSU, he was also active as a board member of the Windham area United Way and as co-chair of the March of Dimes walk. Mike also volunteers at the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and is on the board of the Friends of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony. Mike chairs Avalonia’s Governance Committee and is a member of the Personnel and Nominating Committees. He and his wife, Maureen, summer on Cape Cod and while there are especially fond of spending time with their five grandchildren.
Sue, Avalonia’s vice president and treasurer, has an MBA degree in finance from the University of Notre Dame. As a retired financial executive and corporate treasurer for a multibillion-dollar global manufacturing company, she has over 30 years’ experience negotiating financial transactions for sales, debt, foreign exchange, leasing, real estate, and insurance. Since 2007, she has identified, negotiated, and teamed with other local volunteers and the state and federal government to preserve over 1,000 acres of environmentally rich land, now open to the public. Recently, numerous landowners have contacted Avalonia hoping to preserve their land. To accomplish this, a capital campaign is underway to add more land to existing greenways in southeastern Connecticut. Sue chairs Avalonia’s Acquisition and Finance Committees and is a member of the Development Committee. In her spare time, Sue also enjoys hiking, mountain biking, boating, and growing native plants in her garden.
Chuck, Avalonia’s development and programs director, moved to Noank, Connecticut, in 2013 with his wife, Deb, after 30 years of living in Colchester, only 30 miles away. He retired in 2015 as Eastern Director of Sales for Wigwam Mills, Inc., to spend time with family and pursue his passion for land conservation. A founding board member of the Colchester Land Trust, Chuck served as its vice president for six years and chaired the Accreditation and Funding Committees. He is currently vice chair of the Steering Committee for the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, a statewide guidance and resource association for Connecticut’s more than 130 land conservation groups. Chuck is an avid fly fisherman (having fished the rivers of 30 states) and he and Deb have two grown sons and four grandkids.
Maureen grew up in Stonington and spent much of her childhood exploring Avalonia’s preserves; she is delighted to give back by volunteering to serve on Avalonia’s BOD and chairing the Communication and Outreach Committee. She lives in Rhode Island, working as education coordinator for the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve based on Prudence Island. Connecting people of all ages with nature has been at the heart of her career and she hopes to continue doing that through her work with Avalonia. When not working, you’ll probably find her gardening, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching, and taking photographs throughout New England.
Robert (Bob) Leuba has lived in Mystic since 1960. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island and UCONN Law School, Bob recently retired as a Superior Court judge. He and his wife, Hope, own a horse farm and enjoy spending time on the water on their boat. Over the years, he and Hope have donated land and easements to Avalonia. Bob is currently serving on Avalonia’s Governance Committee.
David is in the closing chapter of a 50-year career in investment management, corporate finance, and venture capital. In the ’90s he served as chief investment officer of Progressive Insurance and has been a partner of CCP Equity Partners since 2001. He served on several corporate boards and chaired a non-profit homeless shelter in Brooklyn in the late ’80s after completing a degree in Art History at Rutgers University and serving in the Vietnam war. David has volunteered for Avalonia for several years and is currently a member of the Communication and Outreach and Development Committees. He is an outdoorsman and can be found most days managing the natural resources of their properties, gardening, hiking with his dogs or sailing.
Julie earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Delaware and is a quality assurance officer of a certified environmental analysis laboratory in Connecticut. She, her husband, and daughter live in Ledyard where she has served on the town’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission and is currently engaged in various trail and conservancy projects as vice chair of the Conservation Commission. Julie is a member of Avalonia’s Acquisition Committee and the Ledyard Town Committee. When not working or volunteering, she is renovating and rehabbing her 200-year-old colonial home with her husband. She is a triathlete and spends winter weekends cross-country skiing in Lake Placid, New York.
Mark is a life-long resident of the Mystic-Stonington area and is retired from the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant where he worked as a senior financial analyst. He loves the outdoor life and is an avid boater, fisherman, golfer, and hiker and enjoys landscaping and gardening too. Mark has been an Avalonia Stonington Town Committee member for several years and recently became a member of the Communication and Outreach Committee.
Rick has lived in Mystic for 59 years and has an MBA in finance. Rick worked in a management position in retail sporting goods and since then has been a financial analyst for a major defense contractor managing engineering contracts. Rick enjoys wildlife photography and his photos may be seen on Avalonia, Connecticut Land Conservation Council, and The Nature Conservancy (Connecticut) websites. Rick is a coordinator of Project Limulus (a study of the ecology of the Long Island Sound horseshoe crab population) and is a volunteer for FrogWatch USA and Osprey Nation. Rick currently serves on Avalonia’s Development, Stewardship, and Stonington Town Committees and is chairperson of Stonington’s Climate Change Task Force.
Gerry lives with his wife, Linda, in Hanover. A licensed land surveyor, Gerry has spent much of his adult life rooted in musty land-record vaults and archival centers, squinting at old maps and ancient deeds in pursuit of understanding the origins of title and land ownership in Connecticut. He has successfully warded off all attempts by Avalonia members to educate him as to flora and fauna. He claims, however, to be able to distinguish between a New England cottontail and an Eastern cottontail at a distance of 100 yards. Gerry is a member of Avalonia’s Acquisition Committee.