NORTH KINGSTOWN – Earlier this month, a Saunderstown resident was named to the board of directors of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, a nonprofit organization that protects nearly 10,000 acres of natural habitat throughout the state.
Ann-Christine (Tina) Duhaime was among six new Rhode Island residents named to the board, which took place on Oct. 20 at Audubon’s annual meeting at Rosecliff in Newport.
A Rhode Island native, Duhaime splits her time between Saunderstown and Charlestown, Mass.
She is currently the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Nicholas T. Zervas Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and Associate Faculty at Harvard University Center for the Environment. She also serves on the Executive Board of the Section of Neurological Surgery for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Duhaime has held numerous regional, national and international leadership positions in pediatric neurosurgery and neurotrauma.
As the state’s largest private landowner, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island protects over 9,500 acres of open space for birds and wildlife. Fifteen of the properties owned by the society are open to the public to go hiking, with over 30 miles of trails. Audubon also has an active program at the statehouse advocating for pollinators, birds, pesticide reduction and general environmental causes.
Because of this, Audubon’s Senior Director of Advancement, Jeff Hall, said that the organization sought individuals for the board who have a strong commitment to the environment–a quality he said Duhaime possessed.
“We look for individuals who have a commitment to the environment. It doesn’t have to be birds, even though we’re known as a bird organization. It can be anyone who has a strong interest in protecting nature,” Hall said. “We’re a statewide organization, so we look for people across the state to represent on our board.”
Hall said that, with her “incredible” background in science and research, Duhaime was a natural fit to sit on the board of directors. And because Audubon protects more than 150 acres of land in North Kingstown, which Duhaime has been active in trying to conserve, Hall went on to say that she made an ideal candidate.
“She lives in an area with lots of property, and she has been very active in trying to protect that,” Hall said. “She and her husband [Stanley Peli] have been longtime members [of the Audubon Society]. She’s been getting more involved in the land saving in North Kingstown, we’ve been working with her on a lot of things, and we thought she would just be a great asset to our board of directors.”
“Audubon protects well over 100 acres in North Kingstown, so we look to have members in communities that we have significant holdings from,” he added. “Someone with eyes on the ground to get a feel of that community. [Duhaime’s] just brilliant, that’s what we’re looking for.”
He also said that, because Audubon has refuges and properties across Rhode Island, the organization prefers to have a “broad representation” on the board, with members from all over the state.
The board’s role, Hall said, was to maintain governance and fiduciary responsibilities, making sure Audubon properly used the resources donated to the organization.
“We are a nonprofit, so all our money comes from nonprofit. We look for people who we feel have good judgment and some standing in the community. People look to our board to see what our leadership is,” he said. “We’re a philanthropic organization, so when people give money to us, they want to make sure that when they look to our board, it’s a well-respected group of individuals that will make wise decisions, prudent decisions, on how we protect the environment.”
Duhaime said that she was grateful for the opportunity to “get more involved with a leading organization that has been so important in conservation and education in Rhode Island.”
“I grew up in Rhode Island so have a deep appreciation for the rich natural landscapes and unique coastal ecosystems in our state,” she said.
She also said that, with the links between environmental issues and physical and psychological health becoming clearer over the years, the work organizations like Audubon are doing remains critical.
“Gathering data and engaging the public to better understand the nature of the problems facing our environment and what can be done at various levels – individual, government, corporate, and advocacy – remain critical,” she said. “I hope to learn more about how people from all backgrounds can come together to contribute to solutions, and also to most effectively inspire the next generation of environmental advocates.”
“Audubon has done an incredible job in advocacy, education, and research,” she continued. “They have helped tremendously in land preservation and programs that inspire so many people to enjoy, appreciate, and protect our natural resources. It’s tricky to balance a sense of urgency with a sense of fun and wonder – but Audubon of Rhode Island manages to do it beautifully. It’s a privilege to be associated with such an effective and inspirational group.”
Along with Duhaime, five other Rhode Island residents were named to the board of directors, including Laura Landen (Hope), Emily Murphy Prior (Jamestown), Leslie Samayoa (Greenville), Carol Lynn Trocki (Little Compton), Julie Vanier (Barrington).
Members of the board can serve a maximum of nine years.