Chatham's New Conservation Agent Cut Regulatory Teeth In Florida

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Chatham , Conservation , Environment

CHATHAM – The town has a new conservation agent, its third in six months.

Molly Edson began work last Wednesday, taking over the post vacated earlier this year by Paul Wightman, who moved over to part-time assistant conservation agent. Wightman became conservation agent last December following the resignation earlier in the year of Kristin Andres.

Originally from Newburyport, Edson comes to the job from Florida, where she worked for the state's department of environmental protection. She operated out of the department's Tallahassee office, where she was an environmental specialist most recently working as a coastal construction control line permit manager handling permits for coastal construction below mean high water.

The Chatham job is “a really nice change of pace,” she said. In her last job in Florida she spent much of her time in the office working on regulatory matters, only going into the field a few weeks out of the year. While she found, much to her surprise, that she liked the regulatory side of environmental work, she missed the field work.

“I really like the balance of going out in the field as well as still doing the regulatory side of it,” she said of her new job.

Edson has a bachelor's degree in environmental studies from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, and a master's degree in aquatic environmental science from Florida State University in Tallahassee. She has completed additional course work in marine science from the Five Colleges Coastal and Marine Science Program in Massachusetts and the School for Field Studies in the British Virgin Islands. She also served as an intern with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in North Carolina and at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.

After more than eight years in Florida, she decided to move back to Massachusetts to be closer to her family, she said. She was familiar with the Cape from having spent summer vacations in Orleans, and saw the Chatham job as a good match for her skills. She is currently living in Harwich.

The big challenge in the job, she said, will be finding the balance between keeping homeowners happy and protecting the environment. Part of that, for her, is learning both state and local wetlands laws and regulations, although she acknowledges that having learned to read government regulations in her job in Florida makes it a bit easier to understand the local laws.

“Once you learn how to read regulations, they're all kind of easy,” she said.