People Behind a Stronger Coast: Scott Comings, The Nature Conservancy

Scott Comings directs a group of Brown University students during a migratory songbird banding on Clay Head, Block Island Credit: Heather Leslie

Scott Comings directs a group of Brown University students during a migratory songbird banding on Clay Head, Block Island. Credit: Heather Leslie

When he was in ninth grade, Scott Comings attended a year-long outdoor education program that taught him the value of conserving the places he loved. From then on, Comings was “hooked on the natural world,” and says it was a natural jump to follow conservation through high school and into college.

Today Comings, a year-round resident of Block Island, Rhode Island, is channeling that passion in his role as Associate Director of the Rhode Island chapter of The Nature Conservancy. In partnership with the Service, Comings is overseeing Hurricane Sandy-funded projects in Rhode Island such as removal of White Rock dam on the lower Pawcatuck River. Eliminating the dam will allow the Pawcatuck River to do something it hasn’t done since 1770; run free. About 85 percent of fish currently aren’t able to travel past the dam. The remaining 15 percent that do pass, can face four more dams along their journey. Comings says removal of the dam will benefit everyone; fish, wildlife and nearby human communities.

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Comings holds a Peregrine Falcon during a raptor banding and satellite tagging at Lewis Farm, Block Island, Rhode Island. Credit: The Nature Conservancy

Comings’ path to a conservation career included a four-year-position with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. More than half of his time with the Smithsonian included studying tropical birds and migratory songbirds in Panama. Comings says the experience taught him how to effectively work with people, manage projects, and work with people from different cultures and backgrounds.

“It gave me a strong foundation for what I do now,” he says.

Since completing his work at the Smithsonian, Comings has spent 18 years working on and overseeing the land acquisition, science, education, volunteer and stewardship programs of Block Island for the Rhode Island Chapter of the The Nature Conservancy. In 2014 he became Associate State Director for the chapter, part of the world’s largest conservation organization, spanning 50 U.S. states and 40 countries worldwide.

“It was a natural progression to work for an organization (The Nature Conservancy) I respect and really believe in, and to do something I feel is so important and that I love.” – Scott Comings, Associate Director, Rhode Island Chapter, The Nature Conservancy

Comings says one of the best parts about this job is that every day is different — and he and his team are never resting on their laurels as they conserve the nature of Rhode Island. Another good part? “Working to ensure that the next generation understands why we do what we do. This is for the long-term and the benefits will be enjoyed long after I’m here,” he says.

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