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Audubon Western Everglades is the oldest “grassroots” conservation organization in Southwest Florida.

THE HISTORY OF AWE

We've been Protecting Southwest Florida’s Natural Resources and Wildlife through Advocacy and Education since 1961 by focusing on:

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Environmentally
Responsible
Land Use

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Clean Water for
People
and Wildlife

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Protection and Recovery of Imperiled Wildlife
and Their Habitats

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Planning for Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

KEY milestones

The Western Everglades, a region of varied ecological characteristics distinct from those of the “River of Grass” farther to the east, is critical to preservation of the way of life that attracted most of us to southwest Florida.  Composed of Corkscrew and Big Cypress Swamps, the Caloosahatchee watershed, 10,000 islands, as well as countless other permanent and seasonal wetlands.  It also contains hundreds of thousands of acres of cypress forests, strands, prairies, and pine flat woods —and faces a growing threat from ill managed development. This is the Western Everglades, and this is what we've passionately been protecting and advocating for since 1961.

1961

Collier County  Audubon Society Inc.  Chapter is formed. 

1962

Developed “birding” programs for Collier County youth and field-trips for residents

1964

Opposed the Kewaydin road to Marco project protecting Rookery Bay from development

1986/89

Vital role in minimizing negative environmental effects of proposed Sabal Bay project

1995

Legal challenge of Collier County breaking Urban Boundary for Twin Eagles development

1996

Established the Florida Panther Audubon Refuge Keeper group, which became the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge

1997

– Legal challenge of Collier County deleting habitat protections for 300,000 rural acres

2001

AWE hires first professional policy advocate and opens new office

2002

Creation of Rural Land Stewardship and Rural Fringe panther/wetland habitat protection programs

2002

Successful collaborative campaign for Conservation Collier

2008

Founding of Florida Panther Protection Program with 3 other conservation groups and 8 major landowners

2009

Funded Energy use audits for Naples and for Collier County

2010

Successful court defense of Lee County’s Restoration Plan/Rock Mine Regulation for SE Lee

2010

Established Collier Shorebird Stewardship Program with Rookery Bay, FWC and Audubon Florida at Sand Dollar Island

2012

Successful settlement of Mirasol permit suit stopped huge drainage ditch and restored thousands of wetland acres

2016

Took over Burrowing Owl Watch Program on Marco Island and hired a biologist to manage research

2018

AWE hires biologist for Collier Winter Shorebird Stewardship Program at Clam Pass and Marco Island

2018

Hired first Executive Director wiith support and funding from major donor

board of directors

EILEEN

Eileen Arsenault, President

Eileen joined the AWE Board in 1983. She holds a degree in Anthropology from Louisiana State University and worked for several years in the Cultural Resources Division of Coastal Environments, Inc., in Baton Rouge. After moving to Naples in 1982, she became the manager of a wholesale dealer of antiquarian maps and prints. For the past almost 30 years, she has been managing the Arsenault Studio and Banyan Arts Gallery, both in Naples. Eileen has played a leadership role as a board member of various nonprofit organizations, including Collier County Historical and Archaeological Preservation Board Southwest Florida Land Preservation Trust, Environmental Coalition of Southwest Florida and Young Audiences of Southwest Florida.

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Meredith Budd, Director

Meredith

Meredith is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Live Wildly Foundation. Live Wildly Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that applies an entrepreneurial approach to conservation while seeking to balance smart growth, a robust economy and connected, resilient landscape. As the organization’s senior strategist, Meredith engages with federal, state and local governments, institutions, and the non-profit and private sectors to build and maintain strategic relationships and identify opportunities to deepen Live Wildly’s impact.

Meredith holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Science and Biology from University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master’s degree in Marine and Environmental Affairs from the University of Washington. She has over a decade of experience in the environmental field with expertise in imperiled species policy, habitat conservation planning, and wildlife conflict resolution. Prior to joining Live Wildly, Meredith worked as the Regional Policy Director with the Florida Wildlife Federation and as an Environmental Policy Specialist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Before moving to Southwest Florida, Meredith spent several years leading travel programs for teenagers abroad, including sea turtle conservation programs in Costa Rica and marine and environmental monitoring programs in Fiji.


Meredith is a graduate of both the Leadership Collier Foundation’s Associate Leadership Collier (2016) and Leadership Collier programs (2021) as well as a graduate of the 2023 Leadership Florida Connect Class. In her free time, Meredith enjoys traveling with her husband and spending time in local Conservation Collier preserves and other public lands with her dogs, Miss Luci and Mr. Pickles. 

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Alan Keller Ph.D, Director

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Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Alan’s family has lived full- or part-time in Naples since 1946. He has a Doctorate in Human Development from the University of Chicago. While serving in several capacities with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund, he assisted 35 developing countries in conducting studies of the relationships between population growth, economic development, health, and environment and helped those same countries to establish maternal/child health and contraceptive services.

Alan was based in Mexico for 14 years and in Zimbabwe for 5 years, where he led a multinational technical team serving 16 southern African countries.

 

He is Past President and current Conservation Chair of Audubon of the Western Everglades.

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Michael Rechtin, Ph.D, Director

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Michael Rechtin and his wife live on Marco Island and travel extensively. He is passionate about all areas of science and technology and a strong advocate for the environment. Michael has science and technology experience in biological sciences, computer science, chemical and materials sciences, mechanical engineering, and mathematics. He also has legal skills in technology law and intellectual property and general counsel in the corporate and nonprofit organizational space. He was a Partner at Foley and Lardner law firm, Chicago, IL, and Chairman of the Chicago Intellectual Property Department.

Michael also worked as an Associate Patent Attorney with Amoco Oil Chicago, IL where he reviewed and evaluated technology inventions, prepared technology licenses, and obtained patents. Before that, he worked at the Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL as Research Associate where he carried out research on solar energy and alternative energy technologies. Earlier in his career, Michael was a Research Scientist for Texas Instruments, Dallas, TX where he researched optimum glass window compositions for improved laser transmission for forward-looking infrared radar(“FLIR”). 

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Tessa Tilden-Smith, Director

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Originally from Brighton, England, Tessa has lived in Naples since 2000. 

 

She got her BA from Hornsey College of Art in London before deciding to emigrate to the U.S. Tessa worked for magazines and nonprofits in Chicago, New Orleans and Washington DC. before moving to Naples. She was the Creative Director of Gulfshore Life magazine for fourteen years.

 

From her experience at the magazine, working with talented nature and wildlife photographers, she developed a love and appreciation of our unique environment. As well as world travelling, she enjoys spending time in our natural areas.

 

An animal lover, Tessa also volunteers at Purradise Gardens, a Naples cat shelter.

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Sharda Spahr, Director

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Originally from England, Sharda has been a Naples resident for over 46 years and is a graduate of Naples High School and Rollins College. She presently owns and operates the Old Naples Surf Shop on Third Street South in Naples.

 

Sharda has a strong non-for-profit commitment that includes environmental causes; being extremely active in the Friends of Rookery Bay, Naples Equestrian Challenge, NCH Auxiliary, and various leadership roles with her children's schools.

Currently, Sharda is Chair of the Moorings Bay Citizens Advisory Committee, Moorings Property Owners Association-Bay and Waterways Chair, serves on the board of the Third Street South Merchant’s Association, and is on the City of Naples Environmental Advisory Committee.

Sharda has two grown children and 3 grandchildren; 5 & 2-year-old grandsons, and a 2-year-old granddaughter. Her husband Steve is Regional Vice President and Manager of Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC in Naples.

Sharda currently serves as a Director and Membership Chair Audubon of the Western Everglades.

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Andrew Tyler, Ph.D, Director

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Andrew has been a full-time resident of Southwest Florida since 2016, and a regular visitor for the previous twenty-six years. 

The appeal of being in the Everglades ecosystem was a particular draw and since being here full-time he has jumped in to volunteer with a number of local not-for-profit organizations: Naples Botanical Garden, Rookery Bay, as well as Audubon of the Western Everglades, through the Owl Watch and Bird Stewardship programs, have all provided both field-based and lecture learning opportunities.

He is also on the board for Friends of the Fakahatchee (FoF), an organization that functions as a “Citizen Support Organization” in the Florida DEP system for State Park volunteers. The FoF serves a dual function, conducting support functions for the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, based in Copeland, Florida. In his professional life Andrew works as an Analytical Chemist, and started out in academia as both a researcher and a teacher. Elsewhere, positions in biotechnology, pharmaceutical research companies, and companies that manufacture and market scientific equipment provided a fulfilling and varied exposure to an enormous variety of important analytical processes, from research into the methods of ant-to-ant communication, toxins of blue-green algae (a very topical subject!), food manufacturing, as well as CSI laboratories and challenges of criminal law enforcement; as well as the business and marketing challenges unique to each area.

Andrew is still happily married with Karen, together for over thirty years, and their two sons pursue their respective professional lives in computational sciences and international relations.

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Staff

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Andy Wells-Bean, Executive Director

Andy Wells-Bean is a leader in the environmental non-profit world with over 12 years of experience in effective policy work, advocacy, and organizational capacity building. He has built winning advocacy campaigns across the country with the Sierra Club, Public Interest Network, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Organizing for America, and Boston Climate Action Network. Before joining AWE, Andy worked for the United Church of Christ Environmental Justice Ministries, coordinating environmental education and advocacy for the denomination’s 4800 congregations. Andy and his spouse, Rev. Angela Wells-Bean, live in Naples with their two children.

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Brad Cornell, Policy Director

Brad Cornell currently is Policy Director for both Audubon of the Western Everglades and Audubon Florida, a joint position he has held since Summer 2005, and for the regional organization since 2001.  He works on land use, wetlands, coastal habitats, and Western Everglades restoration issues to protect and recover imperiled species, especially the Florida Panther, nesting shorebirds, Corkscrew’s Wood Storks, and Marco Island’s Burrowing Owls.  

 

He has degrees from Oberlin College and the University of Texas at Austin and played trombone for the Naples Philharmonic for ten years prior to joining Audubon.  Brad and his wife Martha have two adult native Floridian children.

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Ted Rodman, Community Education Director

Ted Rodman as AWE’s Community Education Director brings with him an impressive record of business growth, strategic marketing, brand management, and development in the corporate and nonprofit organizational environments. His strengths include: aligning business vision with market realities, P&L management, earned and raised funds revenue generation, social media strategy, graphic design, advertising, direct mail, content marketing, contract publishing, exhibit design, and public relations. Prior to joining AWE Ted was managing partner and creative director for Marketing Vision, and provided business development, membership and donor prospecting, collateral material and communications design, contract publishing, media planning, as well as print, digital, and online advertising for a broad base of New England and national clients.

 

Ted and his wife co-founded the Ducktrap Bay Trading Company, a Camden Maine retail and online wilderness and sporting art gallery business specializing in Atlantic Flyway antique decoys, decorative bird carvings, and original signed/numbered wildlife art prints. He was an active chapter member of Trout Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited. Ted was a philosophy and art major at Lake Forest College, and a merit scholarship student at the Chicago Art Institute Summer School. He lives in Naples, Florida with his wife and Blue Merle Collie and enjoys fly-fishing in Maine and Montana every chance he gets.

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Dr. Jane

Jane Ruprecht, Education Programs Coordinator

Dr. Jane is an educator and wildlife advocate and renaissance person with a varied public and private school professional background. Upon moving to Florida, she was hired to start the Alternative school programs for Collier County. During her 25-year tenure she served as: Lead Teacher, Counselor, taught English, Reading and was selected as a Golden Apple teacher in 2007. Dr. Jane utilized many innovative programs and practices to reach out to a diverse student body and successfully secured numerous grants to bring in artists and equipment to immerse students in experiential learning experiences. Notably, she was the forerunner of the “gardening” movement in schools in partnership with the SWFL 4-H program through IFAS Extension services. 

 

Dr. Jane served as the president of the Collier County Counselors Association for three years, where she is credited with creating and implementing full-day developmental workshops for school counselors. She also served as the President of the Florida State Counselors Association. While teaching at Middlesex High school in N.J., Dr. Jane also worked for the YMCA running a local youth program and directing major youth programs for the six-state area. One of these is the Model United Nations program, serving 1,000 youth and another is the N.J. Youth & Government program which served 350 youth.

 

Photography has been a big part of Dr. Jane’s life with shows at Rookery Bay, and the Von Liebig art center.  She completed the Master Naturalist courses offered by the University of Florida and is recognized as a FMNP Land Steward and Master Naturalist. Dr. Jane completed her Ph.D. degree in Counseling at Barry University in Miami, earned her Master’s degree in Guidance and Special Services at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. Her B.A. degree is in Physical Education and Health from Montclair State College, Montclair, N.J.

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lori

Lori Beall, Program Director

Lori Beall has been with AWE since 2006 as the Program Director. It is a great fit since she has a passion for the environment and all the animals that occupy our unique landscape.

 

Lori grew up in Connecticut and attended the University of Hartford as a Computer Science Major.  She worked at CIGNA Healthcare and managed private County Clubs while in Connecticut. She worked in the marine industry for 3 years in the Caribbean and New England then moved to Southern California, where she was an Area Sales Manager for CompUSA for 6 years.  

 

Lori and her husband Gregg moved to Naples in 2000 and have children, both in college here in Florida.

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Brittany Piersma, Field Biologist

Brittany Piersma has a BS in Environmental Science and worked as a zoo keeper at the Naples Zoo for 4 years. She has a wide range of experience with Southwest Florida’s wildlife from volunteering with FWC, Rookery Bay, Panther Refuge, and Audubon.

Brittany worked as FWC’s Critical Wildlife Area Shorebird Biologist for three summers on Marco Island, where she monitored nesting shorebirds out on Sand Dollar.  Seasonally she worked for three winters as a Shorebird Steward for Audubon Western Everglades surveying the migratory flocks, training volunteers, and doing outreach with the public.

Now as AWE's Field Biologist, Brittany manages our shorebird stewardship, burrowing owl, and gopher tortoise programs.

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annual reports

See what we've been up to.

2019

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2020

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2021

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2023

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2022

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