Spotlight on NEOSEC Ocean Literacy Summit Planners – Pam DiBona and MassBays National Estuary Program

Pam DiBona is the Executive Director of MassBays National Estuary Program and is serving on the Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. Pam is not just a long-time supporter of NEOSEC; she helped develop NEOSEC while working at the New England Aquarium as program manager for the Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence – New England (COSEE NE). “My first day at work in November 2005, I attended a planning meeting focused on launching NEOSEC as a COSEE NE project. Ocean Literacy principles had just been finalized, and the group at that meeting decided that we could structure the Collaborative around those principles and a Summit to bring them to New England educators. I had helped build collaborative groups at previous jobs, and knew that we could build something that would be better than the sum of the parts.”

After 7 years as NEOSEC Program Manager, Pam became ’MassBays’ Executive Director in January 2013. “Being part of NEOSEC had been personally and professionally gratifying, so when I moved to MassBays, I signed us up right away.” The mission of MassBays ties in with that of NEOSEC. “We spend a lot of time talking with municipalities, spreading ocean literacy to decision makers and residents in coastal towns.” With its Healthy Estuaries Grant Program, MassBays serves as the catalyst for projects that test out new ways of gathering information to fill in data gaps. “We are at the nexis between research and practical action. With each proposal we fund, we ask ‘What problem are we trying to address and how will this lead to some practical action?’”

 Review Strategic Actions Mind Map

MassBays is one of 28 National Estuary Programs around the country established under section 320 of the Clean Water Act, and administered by EPA to protect and restore water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance. MassBays is dedicated to protecting, restoring, and enhancing the estuarine resources of Ipswich Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and Cape Cod Bay. This region covers more than 1,000 miles of coastline and serves 50 coastal communities. With such a large area, MassBays has teamed up with partnering organizations to host regional coordinators in five coastal subregions: upper north shore, lower north shore, metro Boston, south shore, and Cape Cod. “The regional coordinators convene stakeholders to find out things like ‘What are the issues we should deal with? What are the priorities?’”

Pam has a strong science background. After getting a BA in Biochemistry from Connecticut College, Pam briefly worked at a research lab. Deciding to change her direction, she then worked at an environmental consulting firm, Eastern Research Group. She was privy to political conversations in Washington D.C. about drinking water legislation. “Scientists were talking to policymakers and not speaking the same language.” She returned to graduate school to “position myself as a translator between science and policy.” While studying for her MS in Environmental Science at UMass Boston, Pam interned with the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, which is a cross-divisional group between the Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General’s office. This confirmed her strong interest in environmental policy. After completing her MS, she coordinated environmental affairs for Charles River Watershed Association, was VP of Policy for Environmental League of Massachusetts and a registered lobbyist at the Massachusetts State House, and then was Chief of Staff at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. These roles had something in common: “I enjoy pulling together complex partnerships to get good work done.” 

Pam describes one initiative when she knew her work made a difference. “I was working at the Environmental League of Massachusetts. I led the charge to pass the MA Beach Act that requires monitoring of water quality at public and semi-public beaches. This was in 2003. I wrote the bill, led testimony hearings, and organized rallies on the State House steps. I teamed up with  MassPIRG (now Environment Massachusetts) to do a door-to-door postcard campaign. When the bill passed, I got to fly to Nantucket to see Governor Celluci sign it into law!”

Pam is saddened by the recent revelations that people knew about impacts of climate change decades ago [referencing 8/31/18 New York Times Sunday Magazine article https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/31/podcasts/the-daily/climate-change-losing-earth.html.] “People were looking at climate change and deciding not to do anything. It was the next person’s problem. It’s been 30 years, and we could have avoided so much pain for so many communities.”

Thank you Pam for committing your career to helping our environment and for your work with NEOSEC!

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