Our Team


Program Management

Dennis Nixon


Tel: (401) 874-6802 | E-mail: dnixon@uri.edu


Nixon has served as the Director of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program since July 2013 and is currently a professor of Marine Affairs, specializing in coastal law.

A marine lawyer by training, he is the author of the casebook Marine and Coastal Law, and is a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and the Rhode Island Bar. Nixon also serves as the legal advisor and risk manager for the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System.

Nixon earned his bachelor’s degree in history at Xavier University, his law degree at the University of Cincinnati, a Master of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island, a Certificate on International Institutions at the University of Geneva, and a Certificate in Ocean Law from Harvard Law School. 

Nixon is an avid sailor on vessels of all sizes and races his own boat weekly on Narragansett Bay.

Alan Desbonnet

Assistant Director

Tel: (401) 874-6813 | E-mail: aland@uri.edu


Alan Desbonnet has been the Assistant Director at Rhode Island Sea Grant in 2007 but has been with the program since 1989 working on a variety of coastal and water resource projects.  

Desbonnet completed undergraduate work at Eastern Connecticut State University, and the master of oceanography program at the University of Connecticut. 

Previously, Desbonnet worked at the Mystic Aquarium as an aquarist, researcher, and educator. He authored a monthly “science for the fisherman” column for “On the Water” magazine for over a decade and taught ecology as an adjunct at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Outside work Desbonnet is an avid skiier, fly tier and fly fisherman of both fresh and salt waters, an amateur photographer, avid birder, gardener, and gourmet cook. 

Tracy Kennedy

Fiscal Officer

Tel: (401) 874-6805 | Email: tkennedy@uri.edu


Monica Allard-Cox

Communications Director

Tel: (401) 874-6937 | E-mail: allard@uri.edu


Monica Allard Cox is the editor of the twice-yearly magazine 41°N that is produced by Rhode Island Sea Grant in partnership with the Coastal Institute at the University of Rhode Island. In addition to her work on the magazine, Allard Cox also supports program communications through layout and design, photography, social media, event planning, writing, and public relations.

She edited and designed the 2015 book, Rhode Island’s Shellfish Heritage: An Ecological History. Allard Cox previously taught composition at the Community College of Rhode Island.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of Rhode Island and Brown University respectively.

Meredith Haas

Digital Media Manager and Science Writer 

Tel: (401) 8746019| Email: mmhaas@uri.edu


Meredith Haas specializes in feature and science writing, as well as digital content development.

For over a decade, she has extensively covered science and environmental issues, interviewing fishermen, policymakers, resource managers, artists, explorers, historians, and scientists to connect the human element to these stories, both at local and national scales.

Haas currently serves as the Sea Grant Communicators Network chair, representing 34 programs nationwide.

Prior to Sea Grant, she was the writer/editor for the National Outdoor Leadership School and a field biologist with Wyoming Game and Fish.

She has degrees in biology and journalism from the University of Rhode Island and is currently pursuing a Masters of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.

Coastal Program

Jennifer McCann

Coastal Program Director

Tel: (401) 874-6127 | E-mail: mccann@uri.edu


Jennifer McCann is the Director of the Coastal Program (“Extension) for the Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program. McCann leads a team to build the capacity of coastal management practitioners locally, regionally, and internationally. At the request of diverse coastal stakeholders, McCann led a process to define Rhode Island’s blue or ocean economy and identify strategies and recommendations to ensure this sector continues to thrive. 

McCann received the 2017 Peter Benchley Ocean Award and a 2017 Graduate of Leadership Rhode Island, and also served as URI’s lead for developing and facilitating the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), the first formally adopted Ocean Spatial Plan in the U.S.

McCann has also played a leadership role in the development and implementation of plans for the siting of land-based renewable energy and a comprehensive management and marketing approach for Rhode Island’s shellfish resources and blue economy. McCann led the national effort to develop monitoring protocols and modeling tools for improved management of offshore renewable energy and developing indicators to determine the impacts of offshore renewable energy on recreation and tourism. Jennifer was a winner of the Department of Interior’s Partners in Conservation Awards (2014) as well as the Outstanding Outreach Achievement Award from the Northeast Regional Sea Grant Consortium (2013).

Pam Rubinoff

Climate Adaptation Specialist

Tel: (401) 874-6135 | E-mail: rubinoff@uri.edu 


Pam Rubinoff is a climate adaptation specialist for Rhode Island Sea Grant where she has contributed to the development of National Coastal Smart Growth principles, helped lead the development of Rhode Island’s state sea level rise policy, identified hazard mitigation initiatives for the state’s urban core, and initiated the Smart Hurricane Recovery initiative for southern Rhode Island.

Her leadership has contributed to efforts including Rhode Island’s FORTIFIED Home program, USAID’s Coastal Adaptation Framework, and URI’s partnership with the National Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Rubinoff has a master’s degree in marine policy from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor’s of civil engineering from the University of Delaware. She has worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Peace Corps in Thailand and was the Regional Coordinator on Cape Cod for the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Program.

Teresa Crean

Community Planning & Education Specialist

Tel: (401) 874-6626 | E-mail: tcrean@uri.edu


Teresa Crean is a community planner and coastal management, and education specialist with Rhode Island Sea Grant.

Crean joined Sea Grant/CRC in 2008 and is currently facilitating municipal-scale projects in Rhode Island that address coastal adaptation to climate change and sea level rise.  She has also served on project teams focused on renewable energy planning, marine spatial planning, and coastal community planning addressing public access and working waterfront issues. 

Prior to joining Sea Grant/CRC, Crean worked for non-profit regional planning commissions and in the private sector for planning/design firms. She earned a master of landscape architecture from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse, a B.S. in environmental policy/natural resource management from the University of Michigan, and is a certified planner through the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Azure Cygler

Fisheries & Aquaculture Specialist

Tel: (401) 874-6197 | E-mail: acygler@uri.edu 


Azure Cygler is a fisheries and aquaculture, specialist for Rhode Island Sea Grant a where she was the project lead on a state-wide Shellfish Management Plan, the first of its kind in Rhode Island, and engages in wild harvest shellfish issues, aquaculture education, and local seafood education.

Cygler has been facilitating the state’s Shellfish Initiative, working to understand kelp market chains, tracking scup product “flow” from the docks to consumers, and transferring aquaculture training programs to online platforms.

Cygler has an M.A. in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island, where her graduate work focused on measuring the well-being of commercial fishermen in three New England ports and how management measures have impacted their decision-making and conservation ethics.

Prior to her graduate work, Cygler worked for the School for Marine Science and Technology in Massachusetts, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, and has fished commercially in the U.S. and abroad. 

Dawn Kotowicz Ph.D.

Fisheries & Climate Specialist

Tel: (401) 874-6152 | E-mail: dkotowicz@uri.edu


Dawn Kotowicz is a social science researcher and extension specialist with Rhode Island Sea Grant. Kotowicz is focused on coastal resilience and sustainable seafood projects. The coastal resilience work involves synthesizing the best available science to clearly communicate challenges and opportunities to stakeholders such as municipal decision-makers and coastal property owners and managers to identify policies and projects that may increase resiliency in the face of potential impacts from coastal hazards and storm events.

her work on sustainable seafood involves understanding current and potential market distribution channels for locally caught or grown seafood.

Prior to joining Sea Grant, Kotowicz worked with NOAA Fisheries and the University of Hawai’i as a Social Science researcher on “people” aspects of fisheries issues in the U.S. Pacific Islands. Her work focuses on social resilience in coastal communities and has included social aspects of climate change impacts, marine protected area designation and management, and indicators of resilience in fishing communities.

She has master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Rhode Island in Marine Affairs, and a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Kate Butler

Coastal Program Fiscal Specialist

Tel: (401) 874-6027 | E-mail: katemanning@uri.edu


As the fiscal specialist for Rhode Island’ Sea Grant’s Coastal Program, Butler manages all aspects of finances including proposal and budget development, financial projections, tracking and reporting, purchasing, travel coordination, and personnel. Kate provides administrative support and assistance to project managers, fund directors, and collaborative partners. 

Cathy Dwyer

Coastal Program Coordinator

Tel: (401) 874-6130 | E-mail: cathydwyer@uri.edu


Cathy Dwyer was acted as a Coastal Program Coordinator for Rhode Island Sea Grant’s Coastal Program, helping develop grant proposals for coastal projects. She is responsible for the fiscal and administrative management of grants and contracts for projects.

Prior to Sea Grant, Dwyer worked in the private sector running several restaurant businesses.

She holds a bachelor’s in psychology.

Sue Kennedy

Coastal Program Communications

Tel: (401) 874-6107 | E-mail: sbkennedy@uri.edu


Sue Kennedy has served Rhode Island Sea Grant as a Coastal Program Coordinator, providing public outreach and media relations for the coastal program.

Prior to Sea Grant, she worked for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, and also served in both reporter and editor capacities at several community newspapers in Rhode Island.

Kennedy has an M.A. and a B.A. in English.

Seafood Safety

Nicole Richard

Seafood Safety Specialist

Tel: (401) 874-2977 | E-mail: nicolerichard@uri.edu


Nicole Richard is Rhode Island Sea Grant’s seafood safety specialist. Her work includes food safety-related research and outreach programming. She has been involved in numerous food-safety related needs assessment projects which resulted in the development of resources and programming for target audiences (e.g. home gardeners, educators, consumers, and seafood and produce industries).

Her lab-based research has primarily focused on the evaluation of biochemical and microbiological quality and safety parameters of seafood. She coordinates food safety outreach activities targeting retail foodservice, home food preservation, entrepreneurial food businesses, and FSMA Preventive Controls for Human Food.  She also coordinates planning of the Rhode Island Food Safety Task Force’s annual conferences.

Legal Program

Julia Wyman

Legal Program Director

Tel: (401) 254-4613 | E-mail: jwyman@rwu.edu


Julia Wyman is the director of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program and the director of the Marine Affairs Institute at Roger Williams University (RWU) School of Law.

She has extensive state and national ocean and coastal law and policy experience and most recently served as Ocean and Environmental Counsel for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Prior to that, she served as the staff attorney at the Marine Affairs Institute, and the policy analyst for the Coastal States Organization in Washington, D.C., an organization that represents the interests of the governors of the thirty-five coastal states, commonwealths, and territories.

Much of Wyman’s work has focused on coastal adaptation to climate change. She serves as an adjunct faculty member at RWU School of Law, where she teaches courses related to ocean and coastal law and policy.

She is the former chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources Marine Resources Section.

Wyman received her J.D. from the University of Maine School of Law and her B.A. from Trinity College. She is also an alumna of the Williams-Mystic maritime studies program.

Read Porter

Senior Staff Attorney

Tel: (401) 254-5734 | E-mail: rporter@rwu.edu


Read Porter is the senior staff attorney with the Marine Affairs Institute at Roger Williams University School of Law and the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program.

Porter joined the Institute and Sea Grant in 2016 and directs the Sea Grant Law Fellow Program. He supervises RWU law students as they provide outside organizations, agencies, and businesses with low-cost legal research related to ocean and coastal law and policy.

Porter’s research interests include fisheries and aquaculture, compliance and enforcement, marine planning, and other topics in ocean and coastal law and policy.

Prior to joining the Institute and Sea Grant, Porter was a senior attorney and director of the invasive species program at the Environmental Law Institute, a non-partisan research and education organization based in Washington, D.C. He also served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Julia Smith Gibbons on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Porter earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Environmental Law Review, and a B.A. in geology from Amherst College.

Erin Gallagher

Legal Program Coordinator

Tel: (401) 254-5392 | Email: egallagher@rwu.edu

Catherine Schluter

Catherine Schluter

Research Attorney

E-mail: cschluter@rwu.edu


Catherine Schluter is a research attorney with the Marine Affairs Institute at Roger Williams University School of Law and the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program. Her work focuses on aquaculture issues.

Throughout law school, Schluter worked on various onshore and coastal environmental and natural resources law issues, and she has interned with a national environmental non-profit organization as well as several federal agencies. 

She earned a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was an executive editor of the Georgetown Environmental Law Review, and a B.A. with Highest Distinction in Asian Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Schluter is a member of the North Carolina Bar.

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