Christine Suter named Friends of the Bay’s new director


Christine Suter has a substantial seashell collection and is an ardent defender of horseshoe crabs, but this enthusiasm serves merely as a precursor for her lifelong passion as an advocate for marine conservation.

Serving as Friends of the Bay’s new executive director as of Feb. 13, Suter, 40, is committed to using her extensive knowledge of marine science and marine conservation to work toward fulfilling the nonprofit’s mission statement — “to preserve, protect and restore the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Estuary and the surrounding watershed.”

Suter’s love affair with the environment began at a very young age on Sundays, when instead of going to church, she accompanied her mother on nature hikes.

“She called it her ‘church of nature,’” Suter recalled. “So we would go hiking in the woods, on the beach or into the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary or Shu Swamp. They were little hikes that were kid friendly. My mother was a real protector of nature.”

Christine is a native of Huntington, but her mother, Barbara, is one of eight children from the Gore family, born and raised in Bayville. Christine has found memories of spending her summers in the seaside community, filling her days with chasing fiddler crabs and swimming in the bay.

“I was a ‘water baby,’” Christine recalled, with a smile. “My mother would have to drag me out of the water when we went to the beach. I always had a curiosity about everything in the water.”

After graduating from Huntington High School in 2001, Suter attended LIU South Hampton for two years, taking science courses. Then, in 2003, she moved to California, living there for seven years. She earned a bachelor’s in anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2009.

But because she missed her family, Suter moved back to Huntington in 2010. Shortly thereafter she decided to return to college. Suter earned a master’s degree in marine conservation and policy from Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in 2020.

Two years ago she was hired for her first environmental job at Friends as its assistant director. When the group’s executive director, Heather Johnson, departed, Suter served as the interim director for six weeks before being hired as director.

“Christine has done an amazing job for us for the past two years, particularly in expanding our social media presence, managing our volunteer base and coordinating water quality monitoring efforts,“ Bill Bleyer, Friends of the Bay’s president said. “We expect to do more and better things going forward.”

Prior to Suter becoming Friend’s director, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation supported a hydrodynamic study performed by two Adelphi professors that researched the currents and temperature movement of the bay. They were looking for habitat suitability, to reestablish oysters, Suter said. Friends provided support for the research administratively, submitting the various reports that were required as well as the boat that was needed to conduct the water quality monitoring.

Acquiring a grant for roughly $477,000, Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences will further Adelphi’s study this year, which Friends will support.

“And they will also try to determine the best places for establishing your oyster reefs,” Suter said. “They’ve had a lot of success out in Shinnecock Bay.”

Her goals as the new director also include collaborating further with the WaterFront Center. Friends currently engages with the center in a kayak conservation cruise twice a year.
And she’d like to expand Friends’ speaker series, which she has already begun by sharing her interest in winter ducks. She led a duck talk and walk in February, taking roughly 30 people on a walk along Beekman Beach and West Shore Road.

Friends is in the process of hiring a full time assistant who Suter hopes will be able to coordinate volunteers to assist in different activities, including monitoring the diamondback terrapin population on Center Island.

“I’m thrilled to become executive director of Friends of the Bay,” Suter said. “Environmental conservation and advocacy are not just my work but my life passion. I live in Oyster Bay, and it is a very special privilege to be able to preserve and protect the beautiful bay and estuary in my own town.”