Program Management  |  Communications  |  Coastal and Fisheries Extension  |  Legal Program 


 Dennis Nixon copy Dennis Nixon
Tel: (401) 874-6802 | E-mail:
Professor of Marine Affairs Dennis Nixon has served as the Director of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program since July 2013.  In that role, he leads a multi-million dollar research and education program devoted to using scientific knowledge to improve the management of Rhode Island’s coastal waters. Prior to that, he served for four years as the Associate Dean for Research and Administration at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, where he was responsible for the administration of the 200+ acre campus, pier, and the 185’ Research Vessel Endeavor. He served the previous 8 years as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, also at the University of Rhode Island. He has been a faculty member at the University of Rhode Island for the past 41 years, teaching courses in the area of marine and coastal law. A marine lawyer by training, he is a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and the Rhode Island Bar. He is the Secretary and General Counsel for the Point Club, a fishing vessel insurance cooperative he helped found over 20 years ago. He is one of the three founders of the International Marina Institute, which provides educational programs and certification for professionals in the marine industry around the world. Under a grant from the National Science Foundation, he is also the legal advisor and risk manager for the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System and has been providing advice to all of the US academic research vessel fleet for the past 30 years. He has lectured on marine law topics in 27 states and 26 countries on 6 continents. He is the author of over 50 articles and the casebook Marine and Coastal Law, first published in 1994 and released in a second edition in 2010. Professor 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.  He is an avid sailor on vessels of all sizes and races his own boat weekly on Narragansett Bay.
 alan_desbonnet2011 copy Alan Desbonnet
Assistant Director, Director for Research, Director for Education
Tel: (401) 874-6813 | E-mail:
Alan Desbonnet began in the Sea Grant extension program in 1989, then shifted into program management in 2002, providing oversight of education and aquaculture activities, and managing the animal husbandry section of the international journal Aquaculture. In 2007 Desbonnet assumed the position of Assistant Director at Rhode Island Sea Grant. Desbonnet completed undergraduate work at Eastern Connecticut State University, and the master of oceanography program at the University of Connecticut. His thesis research focused on predator-prey relations and the aquaculture of the surf clam, Spisula solidissima, and he conducted non-thesis related research on amphipod physiology that was presented the Buck-Ketchum Award at the 1989 New England Estuarine Research Society meeting. At Sea Grant, he authored the ecology chapter for the “Ocean Special Area Management Plan” for Rhode Island and the ecology chapter for the “Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan.” He has edited two books: “Urban Aquaculture” (CABI) and “Science for Ecosystem-based Management: Narragansett Bay in the 21st Century” (Springer). As an extension agent, Desbonnet synthesized science for improving coastal resource management, including work on interstate management plans with Connecticut and Rhode Island, and with Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Development of a water resource inventory that promulgated a move towards sustainable water management in the Pawcatuck River watershed, and helping the nine-town Washington County Regional Planning Council collaborate and cooperate on planning and management issues were a few major engagements. Desbonnet developed a 400+ coastal public access site GIS data layer that provides the foundation for a new “Shoreline Rhode Island” mobile app. Previously, Desbonnet worked at the Mystic Aquarium as an aquarist, researcher, and educator, and he designed and implemented their college intern program during his tenure. 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 fly tier and fly fisherman of both fresh and salt waters, an amateur photographer, avid birder, gardener, and gourmet cook. Desbonnet also mountain bikes, road cycles, kayaks, skis, and plays tennis. During the ski season he can often be found at Avie’s Ski/Sports in Westerly, RI where he assists in tuning and repair, acts as a ski “tester,” manages the website, and helps with sales. Desbonnet served on the Stonington Shellfish Commission for 15 years, and on the Board of Trustees for the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association on multiple occasions over several decades.
 kennedy Tracy Kennedy
Fiscal Officer
Tel: (401) 874-6805 | E-mail:
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Monica Allard Cox
Communications Director
Tel: (401) 874-6937 | E-mail:
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
Research Communications Specialist & Digital Media Manager
Tel: (401) 874-6019 | E-mail:
Meredith Haas specializes in feature and science writing, as well as digital content development. She has degrees in biology and journalism from the University of Rhode Island. 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. Prior to Sea Grant, she was the writer/editor for the National Outdoor Leadership School and as a field biologist with Wyoming Game and Fish.
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 mccann Jennifer McCann
Director of Extension
Tel: (401) 874-6127 | E-mail:
Jennifer McCann is the Director of Rhode Island Sea Grant’s Extension Program and the Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center at the Graduate School of Oceanography. Based on the center’s decades of experience in coastal  management locally and abroad, she has developed trainings and workshops for an international effort to build the capacity of coastal management practitioners, and is playing a leadership role in University efforts to assist the state in bolstering its marine-based “Blue Economy.” McCann currently serves on Duke University’s Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Advancement Training Steering Committee, is a state-appointed advisory committee member for the multi-state offshore wind roadmap initiative, and is a task force member for the federally appointed BOEM Rhode Island Renewable Energy Task Force. As part of Rhode Island Sea Grant’s seafood portfolio, McCann works with partners to offer aquaculture education to prospective shellfish farmers and the public. From 2007- 2010, she served as a principal lead for the development and implementation of the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), the first formally adopted Ocean Spatial Plan in the nation, which led to the siting of the nation’s first offshore windfarm. McCann led the national effort to develop monitoring protocols and modeling tools for improved management of offshore renewable energy. She was a winner of the Peter Benchley Ocean Award in the “Excellence in Solutions” category for her work on the Ocean SAMP team (2017), as well as the Department of Interior’s Partners in Conservation Awards (2014), and the Outstanding Outreach Achievement Award from the Northeast Regional Sea Grant Consortium (2013). She began her career at the Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) (now The Ocean Conservancy), building a strong and diverse educated constituency for the creation and management of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. She represented CMC in the Dominican Republic to build the capacity of local nonprofits as institutions and implementers of integrated coastal resources management.
crean1 copy Teresa Crean
Extension Specialist
Topics: Community planning; coastal climate change adaptation and resilience
Tel: (401) 874-6626 | E-mail:
Teresa Crean is a community planner and coastal management extension specialist with Rhode Island Sea Grant and the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center (CRC). 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. This work involves evaluating the results of mapping exercises to clearly communicate challenges and opportunities to municipal stakeholders while collaboratively considering policies and projects that may increase resiliency in the face of potential impacts from coastal hazards and storm events. 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. All work employs a research and planning process that integrates the best available science with open input and involvement from a broad range of stakeholders, decision-makers, and the public. 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.
 cygler copy Azure Cygler
Extension Specialist
Topics: Fisheries, aquaculture, seafood, local food, shellfish
Tel: (401) 874-6197 | E-mail: 
Azure Cygler is a fisheries, aquaculture, and seafood extension specialist for Rhode Island Sea Grant and the Coastal Resources Center (CRC). She began work at CRC in 2012, engaged in a region-wide fisheries mapping effort, a collaboration between CRC, the Island Institute in Maine, and George LaPointe Consulting. 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.
Since then, 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. She lives in Narragansett and is involved in the coastal community.
Extension Specialist
Tel: (401) 874-6130 | E-mail:
 sue_kennedy copy Susan Kennedy
Extension Specialist
Topics: Sustainable coastal communities, communications
Tel: (401) 874-6107 | E-mail:
Since 2000, Sue Kennedy has served as a communications specialist for the Coastal Resources Center (CRC)/Rhode Island Sea Grant, providing public outreach and media relations for the program. Before joining CRC, 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.
Dawn Kotowicz Dawn Kotowicz
Extension Specialist
Topics: Fisheries, social resilience, climate change and sea level rise, sustainable seafood
Tel: (401) 874-6152 | E-mail:
Dawn Kotowicz is a social science researcher and extension specialist with Rhode Island Sea Grant and the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center (CRC). Kotowicz joined Sea Grant/CRC in 2015, and 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. The sustainable seafood work involves understanding current and potential market distribution channels for locally caught or grown seafood. Kotowicz has also served on project teams focused on climate change science, marine spatial planning and, as a student at URI, coastal community resiliency in Thailand. Her work employs a research and planning process that integrates the best available science with open input and involvement from a broad range of stakeholders, decision-makers and the public. Prior to joining Sea Grant/CRC, 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.
 manning copy Kathryn Manning Butler
Fiscal Specialist
Tel: (401) 874-6027 | E-mail:
 Nicole RIchard Nicole Richard
Research Associate/Food Safety Specialist
University of Rhode Island
Cooperative Extension Food Safety Education Program
Tel: (401) 874-2977 | E-mail:

Nicole’s 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.

pam Pamela Rubinoff
Extension Specialist
Topics: Sustainable coastal communities, climate change adaptation
Tel: (401) 874-6135 | E-mail: 
Pam Rubinoff is a senior coastal manager at the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) and extension specialist for Rhode Island Sea Grant, both at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. She combines her skills in engineering and coastal policy to lead CRC’s effort to create an interdisciplinary Climate Change Adaptation program — a cornerstone of which is a new Coastal Adaptation Guidebook. Since 1996, Rubinoff has worked with U.S. and international partners to build capacity, create policy and provide technical assistance in Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Marshall Islands and Rhode Island. She has contributed to community recovery efforts and resilience assessment methods as part of the United States’ response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. As a Sea Grant Extension specialist, Rubinoff 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.
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Julia Wyman Julia Wyman
Director, Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program
Tel: (401) 254-4613 | E-mail:
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
Read Porter
Senior Staff Attorney, Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program
Topics: Environmental law, natural resources law
Tel: (401) 254-5734 | E-mail:
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. Mr.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. Mr. 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, Mr.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. Mr. 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
Program Coordinator, Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program
Tel: (401) 254-5392 | Email: