Environmental Learning Center Appoints Four New Board Members


The Environmental Learning Center (ELC) is pleased to announce the addition of four new board members: Dr. Gabrielle Barbarite, Michele Downey, Tyler Puttick and Jeff Susi. The Board’s goal is to advance the ELC’s mission to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being. “The ELC has always attracted talented and compassionate board members, and these wonderful women and men certainly fit into those categories,” ELC Board Chairperson Don Barr said.

Dr. Gabrielle Barbarite brings a wealth of scientific experience to the ELC. With a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology, a Master of Science degree in Biology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology, Dr. Barbarite serves as the Director of Outreach and Engagement for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI). In her role at HBOI, she is responsible for the organization’s public outreach and works closely with research personnel to translate scientific content into exhibits that can be understood and appreciated by visitors. She also created the Ocean Discover Experience, a STEAM program that introduces children from underserved communities to marine science topics.

Michele Downey will be sharing her marketing and philanthropic expertise with the ELC.  A native of New Canaan, Connecticut, Downey has worked with a number of Treasure Coast nonprofits including the Samaritan Center, the Treasure Coast Community Health Foundation, the Indian River Community Foundation, and Children’s Home Society as well as with Dale Sorensen Real Estate. In service to the community, Downey has previously volunteered as a board member for the Samaritan Center and Riverside Children’s Theatre.

Tyler Puttick brings his legal acumen to the ELC. Puttick received his law degree from Stetson University and currently specializes in the area of real estate law for the firm of Rossway, Swan, Tierney, Barry, Lacey, and Oliver. Puttick’s professional affiliations include membership in the Florida Bar Association, the Florida Bar Association’s Elder Law Section, the Planned Giving Counsel of Indian River, the Indian River County Estate Planning Counsel, and the Indian River County Bar Association. His philanthropic endeavors include serving as a board member with the Mental Health Association of Indian River County as well as the Scholarship Foundation of Indian River County.

Jeff Susi is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Indian River Medical Center. Susi will help the ELC develop meaningful relationships with Treasure Coast medical and mental health providers as the organization works to create innovative programs that explore the relationship between nature and human health. Susi received his Master of Hospital Administration degree from Xavier University and his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy from Ithaca College. He has headed up major healthcare organizations including Northeastern Hospital in Philadelphia, Sacred Heart Hospital in Cumberland, Maryland and the Miami Heart Institute. He currently works as a consultant in the healthcare field.

“As senior board members rotate off the board, these new members will provide guidance and expertise that will carry our mission forward,” Barr explained, adding that the ELC wanted to extend its thanks and appreciation to departing board members Bill Clemens, Roger Lynch, Bill Stewart and Chip Watson for their service to the organization.

The Environmental Learning Center is a 64-acre 501(c)(3) not-for-profit nature center. Its mission is to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being. The ELC serves the community through school field trips, camps, lecture series, professional development and more. Our campus includes native plant gardens, boardwalks, kayaks, canoes, a pontoon boat, children’s play area and many other amenities that help increase access to nature for people of all ages.

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