Officers / Staff

Rachel Stephens • President / Agro-Ecology Director •
Rachel was born and raised on the east end of Long Island where she currently owns and runs Sweet Woodland Farm in Hampton Bays.  At Sweet Woodland she grows organic produce in addition to raising chickens, rabbits, and sheep.  Her educational background in horticulture has been strengthened by professional work as an estate gardener, in wholesale plant nursery management and her time spent as a farmer. Rachel is a passionate teacher of homesteading skills such as knitting, gardening, home canning and animal husbandry. 

Mia Fasanella • Secretary / Director of Cultural Affairs •
Mia studied anthropology at SUNY College at Oswego. She received her Permaculture Design Certificate at Punta Mona Center for regenerative design and botanical studies in Costa Rica and later travelled to Benin, West Africa to study Permaculture at the Songhai Center. Mia has worked professionally as a Yoga Instructor, is an avid sailor, and brings her strengths as a scholar of food culture, health, and wellness to her work at ECI.

Debbie Johnson • Treasurer / Director of Finance •
An unflappable keeper of accounts Deb has worked as a bookkeeper and office manager on the East End for more than 20 years.  A curious soul, she studied Biomedical Photography at Rochester Institute of Technology, Environmental Biology at L.I.U. Southampton, and Accounting at Suffolk County Community College.  She was raised on Long Island, loves yoga, Standup Paddle Boarding, and Mother Earth, and is working on exercising her green thumb.  Her work with ECI draws upon her deep concern for the environment, strong commitment to her home community and keen knowledge of business management.

Jeff Schultz • Director of Public Relations / Digital Media •
Jeff earned his B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from Cornell University. He has worked as a Climatologist at Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Climate Center, and later moved to New York City to work in private weather consulting. Born and raised on the east end of Long Island, Jeff has a strong connection to its natural woodlands and waterways. He has served as head instructor for the Town of Southampton's windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding program, as well as the Town of Southold's swimming program. 

Jeff currently works in the camera department on feature films, documentaries, and tv series. Included among his documentary subjects are Joe Namath, John Gotti Jr., Walter Iooss, and Paulina Porizkova. Documentaries he’s contributed to are part of permanent exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and the new Ellis Island Foundation's Statue of Liberty Museum. He exhibits his nature and surf photography in east end galleries, as well as windsurfs and stand-up paddle surfs at Ponquogue Beach. Alarmed by the amount of plastic and nutrient pollution in our beaches, water, and food chain, Jeff advocates for a return to an ethical and sustainable practice of living.

Dr. Scott Carlin Director of Community Relations
Dr. Scott Carlin is an associate professor of geography, faculty member of LIU Post’s new master’s program in environmental sustainability, and Director of the LIU Post Center for Sustainability. He recently served as Co-Chair of the 66th United Nations Department of Public Information / Non-Governmental Organization Conference held in the city of Gyeongju, Republic of Korea from May 30 – June 1, 2016, the first UN DPI/NGO Conference held in Asia. The Conference aimed to end poverty, protect the global ecosystem, ensure human rights as well as prosperous and fulfilling lives for all, as part of a new sustainable development agenda to be achieved by 2030. According to Dr. Carlin “we have reached a critical threshold, where global citizenship has transitioned from something we might do as individuals to something that we must do as individuals. In this new era of climate change what happens to one, happens to all”.

Dr. Carlin, a member of Southampton Town’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, has worked on a variety of sustainable development projects on Long Island, including environmental mapping of breast cancer, green buildings, wastewater management, as well as climate issues and renewable energy.  He is also co-author of Ecology Worldview, published in the International Handbook of Emotional Healing: Rituals and Practices for Resilience After Mass Trauma.

Doria HughesAgro-Ecology Associate • 
Doria is a Long Island native who grew up in central Suffolk County. A pioneer graduate of the Ecological Culture Initiative's Organic Gardening Certificate Program, she currently manages her property and household in East Quogue where she grows organic fruits and vegetables while nurturing three young children with her husband. She raises chickens for their eggs and fertilizer, as well as rabbits, and vermicompost worms to further enrich her soil. Her educational background is in horse care and handling, which afforded her the rich opportunity to rehabilitate abused horses (including a wild mustang) and working with children with disabilities in a farm setting. Doria is most at home with mud on her boots. Her concern regarding contaminants in the environment has guided her to actively pursue knowledge in water conservation, organic gardening, food preservation, and pollinator stewardship including bats, as well as honey and mason bees. Doria's goal is to create a better world for her children through education and practice. 


Affiliated Faculty

Suzanne Ruggles
Director of the Nature Lyceum

Suzanne "The Barefoot Gardener," is on a mission to dissuade people from using pesticides, insecticides, and other damaging elements on their land.  Through her work she educates them about the harm caused by lawns (which destroy wildlife habitat through the use of harmful chemicals and subdue native forest or grassland).  She focuses on the native ecosystem, removing invasive plants (including lawns) and “nativizing” landscapes to encourage biodiversity.  A speaker at The Nature Lyceum for more than15 years, she has led presentations to schools, civic, and environmental organizations, as well as appeared on TV and in film.  A published author on the effects of the suburban landscape, the dangers of overdevelopment, and the benefits of native plants, she sits on The Board of Directors for The L.I. Pine Barrens Society, and spent ten years on the Board of The Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons. She has seen, first hand, the tragedies that befall wildlife caused traditional landscape practice. She has been honored as a “Champion of the Wild” by the Rescue Center, and is the recipient of a “Source Water Protection Award”, sponsored by: The Nature Conservancy, The Neighborhood Network, the L.I. Pine Barrens Society, and the Suffolk County Water Authority. The property surrounding her home is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as an official Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

Martha Weller
Garden Environments

Martha holds a BA in Environmental Design, Policy, and Planning from Stony Brook University as well as a Certificate in Landscape Design from the New York Botanical Garden.  Creative expression through problem solving is at the heart of Martha’s being, and transfers into her work as a landscape designer and project coordinator.  She has supervised large-scale municipal landscape projects working with the New York City Parks Department and the Army Corp of Engineers on the development of storm-water management and wetland restoration plantings. Her landscape design work specializes in formal native and perennial gardens, blended native landscapes, revegetation, wetland, grassland, meadow, and woodland planting design. Martha works locally through her estate gardening and landscape design company Garden Environments.


Advisory Board

Richard Casabianca
Historian, Preservationist

A descendent of Southampton colonists (eight generations in what is now called Hampton Bays) Richard is a graduate of the hamlet’s school system. For the past twenty years Richard has worked tirelessly as a community activist. He has served as both a member and the Chairman of the Hampton Bays Citizens Advisory Committee, as a member of the Hampton Bays Civic Association, was a founding member of the Hampton Bays Historical Society on whose board he served for more than fifteen years and was appointed to the Southampton town Landmarks and Historic Districts board.

His record of outspoken, articulate advocacy at Town Board meetings for issues of Historic and Open Space preservation in Hampton Bays and the surrounding area led to his inclusion in the development of two master plans for the Town of Southampton. He received an award for this work toward the preservation Community Fund properties including the Hampton Frontiers Property, The Prosper King House, Canoe Place Chapel and the the Canoe Place Inn amongst others.

In 2004 Richard purchased the historic Nathan Foster House on Wakeman Road rescuing it from renovation and spearheaded the sale of transfer development rights on an improved residentially zoned property. Subsequently he was the first resident in the Town of Southampton to employ the dormant façade easement program.

Jerome Lucani •
Artist / Environmental Advocate

As an East End artist, Jerome's work focuses on “the fragile, alive beauty of Nature that exists as art all around us”. As an entrepreneur with an MBA from George Washington University, he founded “Carre Bleu Voyages”, a group of travel agencies based in Paris. His exploration of countries such as Costa-Rica, Ethiopia, French Polynesia, Kenya, Morocco, the Reunion Island, the Seychelles, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, and Uganda, opened his eyes to our humanist responsibilities in a deeply interconnected world. Think globally, and act locally. Be the change you want to see in the world. These two axioms have led Jerome to join the staff of ECI.

Laura Luciano
Graphic Designer, Slow Food Advocate

Laura was named Slow Food's New York State Governor in the Fall of 2017. One of her first exposures to food and cooking was with her grandparents in their kitchen, lending a hand preparing Sunday meals. At a young age she was exposed to the bounty of Long Island: fishing, crabbing, or footing for clams with her father at a summer home in East Quogue.

A trained graphic designer, Laura works to bring the stories and brands of people and  corporations to life. Working from Sheridan Green, in Hampton Bays (an energy efficient home / studio designed by her architect husband Christopher Jeffrey), keeps her close to the kitchen, where she hones her skills as a slow food activist and writer. Creator of the blog Out East Foodie, she directs attention to the slow food stories of the North and South forks of Long Island and builds relationships with the culinary artisans and farmers that make the East End healthy and delicious. 

Shannon Stimpson •
Shannon Stimpson was born and raised in Hampton Bays. From his childhood home on Tiana Bay, he formed a deep connection with the marine environment, and the organisms that live in our local waterways. After receiving a Science Laboratory Technology degree from S.C.C.C., he interned at the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas under the direction of Dr. Samuel “Doc” Gruber, a world famous pioneer for shark research and preservation.  With a strong technology background, Shannon brings his experience with control system programming, electronic system integration, and project management to his role at ECI. His abiding interest in permaculture, marine ecosystems, and a plant-based lifestyle drew him to commit his technical expertise, energy, and enthusiasm to supporting ECI’s mission of education and community outreach.

Alfred L. Scherzer, MD, EdD, FAAP
Clinical Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, Weill Cornell Medical College

Dr. Al Scherzer is a fifty-year resident of the Red Creek area of Hampton Bays, a life-long environmentalist, and a past president of the Eastern Long Island Audubon Society. A pediatrician specializing in child neurology, he was in private practice in Riverhead, and also served as Director of the Child Rehabilitation Center of the Peconic Bay Medical Center. He is Clinical Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the Weill Cornell Medical College, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics (Retired) at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and past president of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine.

Bill Siegel
Home Builder

A resident of Hampton Bays since 1988, Bill is a graduate of the Hofstra University Zarb School of Business. In 1984 he founded New Age Builders, Inc., and built more than 350 homes in Suffolk County. He focuses on energy efficient, entry level, and affordable housing, including the first NYSTAR State Certified Energy Efficient Home in Hampton Bays (featured in Newsday). Bill was recognized with a Proclamation from the Suffolk County Legislature as a leader in the field of energy efficient home construction. His company has received awards and national recognition for their homes (US Department of Housing and Urban Development, US Department of Energy, Energy Star, NYS Energy and Research Development Authority, as well as the Town of Southampton, Town of East Hampton, Long Island Housing Partnership, and the Community Development Corporation of Long Island).

Earlier in his life Bill competed as a professional tennis player and traveled around the world, earning an ATP World Ranking and induction into the Hofstra University Athletic Hall of Fame. Having made four trips to India, he is especially interested in meditation, spirituality, and yoga. He supports a number of global and local organizations dedicated to peace, sustainability, animal rights, wildlife protection, environmentalism, and veganism. Bill can often be found in the natural habitats of the east end of Long Island cycling, hiking, surfing, kayaking, and enjoying the beaches.

Gerrod Smith
Community Activist

Gerrod Smith is a founder and treasurer of the Native American owned and operated Blossom Sustainable Development Inc., a nonprofit community development organization located in Shinnecock territory that serves to promote the health and wellbeing of the indigenous and underserved peoples of Long Island.

He holds certification from the Falmouth Institute in the preparation of year-end financial statements for government organizations, and strategic planning for Indian Tribes. Having been involved with eel grass restoration, eel aquaculture, coral research, and water quality monitoring, Roddy was an appointed tribal co-leader of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body of President Barack Obama’s Executive Order on “Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts and the Great Lakes”.  His trainings also include Ceremonial Stone Landscape Field Specialist (working with Shinnecock Youth to help protect ancient areas of ancestral cultural resources), Paleo Submerged Landscape Research training to assist the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in monitoring submerged cultural artifacts and assisting in the development of a Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

An inspirational athlete, entrepreneur, and tribal elder - Roddy brings a wealth of environmental economic, and organizational expertise to his work with ECI.



Marc Fasanella •

The Founding Director of the Ecological Culture Initiative, Dr. Marc Fasanella is a freelance Author, Curator and Environmental Designer. He has been an educator at the University level for nearly three decades, most recently as a Visiting Professor of Ecological Architecture, and Design in the Sustainability Studies Program of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. He holds a PhD in Art & Art Education from New York University where he wrote his doctoral dissertation The Environmental Design of Jones Beach State Park, which delved into the aesthetic, economic, geologic, political and environmental aspects of the Park’s initial construction. His MA from NYU in Technology and Industrial Education concentrated on using industrial skill and passive solar architecture to produce socially responsible design. Marc holds permanent certification from the New York State Education Department in Art, Industrial Arts, and Technology Education. Throughout his undergraduate training he apprenticed himself to the trades of estate gardening, restoration carpentry and stone masonry. An exhibit curator and author of works on Art, Craft and Design, his recent book about his father Ralph Fasanella: Images of Optimism was published by Pomegranate Press in the Fall of 2017.

Anne Moyer •
Social Psychologist

Co-Founder of the Ecological Culture Initiative, Anne received her Ph.D. in Social / Health Psychology from Yale University.  She is an Associate Professor in the Social and Health Area of the Psychology Department and Faculty Director of the Honors College at Stony Brook University. Her research focuses on psychosocial issues surrounding cancer, medical decision-making, the psychology of research participation, and meta-analysis. She is co-editor of a new book, The Psychology of Friendship, published by Oxford University Press. Anne’s personal path to wellness involves time spent with horses, dogs, and cats, as well as her human family enjoying cooking, yoga, and stand-up paddle boarding.

Mia Fasanella • Secretary / Director of Cultural Affairs •
Mia studied anthropology at SUNY College at Oswego. She received her Permaculture Design Certificate at Punta Mona Center for regenerative design and botanical studies in Costa Rica and later travelled to Benin, West Africa to study Permaculture at the Songhai Center. Mia has worked professionally as a Yoga Instructor, is an avid sailor, and brings her strengths as a scholar of food culture, health, and wellness to her work at ECI.