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Fulltime naturalist position created at TNC

The Nature Conservancy and the Ocean View Foundation are pleased to announce that Josie Merck, President and founder of the Ocean View Foundation, has made a transformational gift that will fund a permanent naturalist position on Block Island. The endowed position will be called the OVF Naturalist Perch and will deliver nature education opportunities to visitors, residents, and students, and provide important leadership on climate change and sea level rise issues on the island and beyond.

The Conservancy is further thrilled to announce that it has hired Kim Gaffett to hold the first OVF Naturalist Perch. Gaffett is the long-time director of the Ocean View Foundation and President of Rhode Island Natural History Survey. She is an exceptional naturalist and nature educator, well known for her deep knowledge of Block Island’s natural history and ecology. 

“Kim will be a tremendous asset to our Block Island program and we are so excited to have her join our team,” said Scott Comings, Interim State Director of The Nature Conservancy. “Whether it be Block Island natural history, citizen science, climate change mitigation strategies or educating the community about all of the above, we’re going to have one of the best who will move our program in important new directions.” 

This gift complements Merck’s many years of support for The Nature Conservancy on Block Island, which included providing the initial three years of seed funding to launch the education program in the mid-1990s. It cements a strong partnership between the Conservancy and the Ocean View Foundation. 

“This new position reinforces the work our naturalists do on Block Island, including with the island students. Kim was the gifted initiator of all Ocean View programs that will now be incorporated into TNC. She also will bring her clean energy background to their climate work,” said Merck. 

“We are deeply grateful to Josie for her generosity, vision, and commitment to future generations, and for the trust she has placed in The Nature Conservancy,” Comings continued. This is a ‘forever gift’ that all visitors and residents will benefit from.”

The Ocean View Foundation’s signature programs, its commitment to community outreach, and hands-on discovery will be continued by the OVF Naturalist Perch and will complement the programs that are currently offered by The Nature Conservancy. Together the programs will offer many ways to connect all members of the Block Island community to the fields, marshes, and beaches that make this island such a special place. 

"I am grateful for Josie's incredibly generous gift to Block Island, its residents, and visitors,” said Gaffett. “It is amazing to realize that with this gift — and regardless of the passage of time, changes in personnel, or population shifts — Block Island will always have an island-based naturalist at its disposal for environmental education, research and activism. I am also extremely humbled to have been selected to hold the OVF Naturalist Perch at TNC. I look forward to continuing my work with the Block Island community, and to working with TNC, as we seek to meld our programs, while also confronting climate change and sea level rise issues facing our island community."

The Ocean View Foundation Inc. will continue its existence on the island, stewarding its properties at the Pavilion in Old Harbor, its year-round housing, and at the Cullinan House on Dunn’s Cartway.

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