By Angela Higginbotham
Originally from South Florida, Ellen Leroy-Reed’s travels brought her to the First Coast a decade ago and she immediately fell in love with the area. Leroy-Reed studied business administration at St. Leo University. As both a former Gala Director with the American Heart Association and a former Director of Development/Sponsorship with One Spark, Reed’s love for the community is extraordinary.
Currently, she serves as the Executive Director at GTM (Guana Tolomato Matanzas) National Estuarine Research Reserve in Ponte Vedra Beach. Always passionate about the environment, Leroy-Reed is elated to be with working with the Reserve. Together, she and her husband have five children who live in different areas of both the United States and the United Kingdom.
- What do you enjoy most about your work in Ponte Vedra Beach?
I’ve lived and worked all over the country and I find this area astounding because anyone with a passion for almost anything can easily make a difference here. The community is open to different people, cultures and ideas. This area is all about big ideas. World-changing research is done right here in our community.
- What do you feel is the most important message to be passed on about the GTM Research Reserve?
We think we are the best kept secret in North Florida and we really want the community to come out and enjoy the facility, take a tour, and even consider becoming a member. You will fall in love with the views and the experience. Boats can take volunteers out and people really have a chance to make a difference. You get to be a scientist. The data you collect will help with research all over the world. We are a great way for high school students to earn their community service hours. We have beach clean-up days, we rebuild oysteries and we also have summer camps available for kids. Anyone, at any age, can contribute to this facility. Just go online for the information you need to sign up for activities.
- What are some upcoming goals for the GTM Research Reserve?
We just held our workshop to develop our new goals and we are looking forward to our eighth annual OceanWise event on Sept. 30, 2017. The community is invited to come out and join us. We will have sustainable foods and it will be a day of casual fun for everyone.
We are also looking forward to revitalizing our education center so that the visitors will have an even more meaningful connection to the reserve. It will be completed in phases and we will be reaching out to the public for support. Science is always giving us new results it’s important to remain updated and accurate for our visitors.
- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love to sew clothes and costumes and I also love to read fantasy-based books like Harry Potter. I’m always passionate about anything science related as well.
- If you could take a vacation to anywhere, where would it be and why?
I’d say Greece. I’d like to spend time on the islands. I like places where the view is spectacular and the food is great. I’d also love to go to India though — Indian food is my favorite.
Photo by Angela Higginbotham