Connecting Communities and Ecosystems in Restoration Practice

October 11-13, 2018 • Southern CT State University, New Haven, CT

A big thank you to all of our presenters, sponsors, organizers, and participants for an excellent conference!  See you in 2020 in Quebec City!

Check back soon for copies of the talks from our conference.

At this conference, we will host speakers and discussions that highlight innovative projects and thinking that connect communities—which include humans and other living things—within and across ecosystems. The conference will be held in urban New Haven, a designated Environmental Justice community set within an ecologically essential coastal matrix. The vibrant network of environmental and community-based organizations in this region have supported numerous upland and aquatic restoration projects that will also be featured in our field trips and workshops.


Keynote Talk


Thursday, October 11th, 6pm. Free and open to the public.


Learning from the people and the land: Traditional ecological knowledge toward restoration of ecosystems and of our connection with nature

The traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous and local communities throughout the world could lend guidance for restoring ecosystems and adapting to climate change. Through a long-term relationship with place, communities often have intimate understanding of the nature that surrounds them, and of which they are a part. They also may have a strong understanding of how to sustainably manage that ecosystem.


Stewart Diemont
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Stew Diemont works with people to better understand how traditional knowledge can be part of ecosystem design. With his students and the people of communities in which he works, he has studied soil, plants, fungi, insects, and birds, as well as talked extensively with community members. Dr. Diemont will speak about his and his students’ experiences working with a Zapotec community in Mexico; Mayan communities in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala; the Haudenosaunee of New York; and with traditional vineyard growers in Europe.

His ecosystem design focuses on connecting people with place. He is particularly interested in how food can be a part of ecosystem restoration in rural and urban settings. He will outline how restoration could move forward in partnership with traditional knowledge for sustainable socioecological systems.

Photos by Eva Diemont, Deb Diemont, Jay Martin, Brittany Sprague, Stew Diemont, Syracuse Post Standard


Plenary Speakers


Plenary talks will be held during the conference sessions on Friday October 12th.


Michelle L. Johnson

Research Ecologist USDA Forest Service, NYC Urban Field Station

Michelle Johnson is a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service at the NYC Urban Field Station. Trained in both social and ecological sciences, her research toolkit includes spatial analysis, quantitative social science, and field ecology methods. Her research areas at the NYC Urban Field Station broadly include urban natural resources stewardship and urban tree health, with a current focus on spatial analyses of environmental stewardship organizations’ activities, a qualitative case study of interdisciplinary research & management efforts, and participatory social-ecological modeling. Dr. Johnson holds a B.S. in Biology from Eckerd College, a M.S. in Natural Resource Planning from the University of Vermont, and a PhD in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from the University of Maine.


Nelson Villarrubia

Executive Director at Trees New York

After 10 years with Trees New York, Nelson became Executive Director in 2013. As Executive Director, Nelson has introduced a host of innovative new projects and programs, including the Young Urban Forester Internship and FruiTrees New York.

Nelson has drawn on his strong experience in program management and community engagement over the last few years to forge strategic partnerships and make several keen personnel choices, bringing strong and creative new staff and board leaders to the organization.

As a mission-driven non-profit leader with a passion for environmental and economic development, Nelson spearheaded the most successful fundraising effort in the history of the organization.

In addition to his aptitude in managing people, fundraising and introducing a host of innovative new projects, Nelson is a strong collaborator who has forged fruitful partnerships with groups as diverse as the New York City Housing Authority and Green-Wood Cemetery to drive positive and substantive change. .

Nelson has an MS in Urban Affairs with a concentration in Environmental Policy.


Dr. Chuck Stead

Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Dr. Chuck Stead has long been an advocate on behalf of the Ramapough Lunnape Minsi Nation. Having grown up among the native community, he has witnessed first-hand the degradation and environmental injustice that is daily impressed upon the people of the land. He spearheaded an investigation into the dumping of lead paint into the Ramapo Watershed by Ford Motor Company, leading the successful fight to bring Ford back for a remedial and restoration process. Over the years he has worked with the elders of the Ramapoughs (in particular the members of the Turtle Clan) to seek the recovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and to re-instate their place as the true stewards of the watershed. Dr. Stead works on behalf of the Town of Ramapo Government with Ford and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to further the recovery of the impacted lands. He is also a professional storyteller and is an adjunct professor at Ramapo College of Mahwah, New Jersey where he teaches a course entitled Ecology, Society and the Sacred.


John Banks

Director of the Department of Natural Resources for the Penobscot Indian Nation

John Banks is the Director of the Department of Natural Resources for the Penobscot Indian Nation, a federally recognized Indian Tribe in Maine. Mr. Banks has served the Penobscot Nation in this capacity since 1980, following the enactment of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1980. As Natural Resources Director, Mr. Banks has developed and administers a comprehensive Natural Resources management program for his Tribe, which advances an integrated management approach, in recognition of the inter- connectedness of all things in the natural world. Mr. Banks has served on many local, regional, and national organization boards including the National Tribal Environmental Council, Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, National Indian Policy Center, and the Tribal Operations Committee with USEPA.


Chief Vincent Mann

Turtle Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, which encompasses Passaic County NJ, as well as Warwick and surrounding areas in NY. 

Chief Mann has held the title of Turtle Clan Chief for Approximately 8 years, and in this time he has been awarded the Russ Berry Foundations highest award for being a Unsung Hero for his efforts to bring light to the struggle of his community to fight back after the Ford Toxic dumping.

Chief Mann has been working with NYU Environmental in Tuxedo Park NY for the past 3 years spending 2 years of that time creating a community health survey to address the health concerns of his community, and continues to work with NYU to date. Chief Mann has also been at the forefront of protecting 4 million peoples drinking water, as well as the greater community in the areas surrounding the Ringwood mines superfund site.

Chief Mann has also began the rebuilding the community of one of the two Churches the Ramapough communities attend, one of which is listed on the National Historic Registry as a Historic Native American Church, founded by Samuel Defreese a Ramapough.

He is also on the Legacy Council of the Highlands Coalition, and a former member of the Ringwood mines superfund site’s Citizen Advisory Group (CAG).

Among many other things Chief Mann takes time out to speak at Ramapo College in the Environmental Masters Program on pipelines and environmental justice. Also in 2016 he was asked to speak at a forum at the University of Dayton Ohio on the effects of toxic dumping on his people.

As a advocate for cultural and environmental issues he continues to this day to offer up prayers for humanity and for our natural environment.


Registration Information


Register here. 


Registration Rates:

Category Early Bird
(Until Sept 13)
Regular Rate (Sept 14 – Oct 4)
Standard $200 $250
Government (Municipal, State, or Federal Employees) $200 $200
Member (SER or CFE/Save the Sound) * $120 $160
Member, Government (Municipal, State, or Federal Employees – also member of SER or CFE/Save the Sound) $120 $120
Student ** $65 $65
Requesting financial assistance *** see below see below

* To join SER, visit To join CFE/Save the Sound, visit

** Students registering for the conference are encouraged to take advantage of the many student opportunities available, including grants that cover registration fees and that support travel. If you intend to apply for financial support, fill out the grant application rather than registering for the conference.

*** Funding is available to help support non-students for whom conference attendance presents a financial hardship. The application deadline is August 27, 2018. If you intend to apply for financial support, fill out the grant application rather than registering for the conference.


Other Conference Information


If you have questions regarding the conference, please contact Robin MacEwan or Anna Marshall.


Co-hosted by:


In collaboration with:
     Urban Resources InitiativeSouthern Conneccticut State University

Many thanks to our generous 2018 sponsors!


Corporate Sponsor




Restoration Champion





Restoration Supporter








Field Trip Sponsor



Additional Sponsor