Experienced educator and scientist Abbey Tyrna appointed executive director of Suncoast Waterkeeper

Suncoast Waterkeeper Executive Director Abbey Tyrna takes a sample of water from a Sarasota roadside ditch.

Suncoast Waterkeeper Executive Director Abbey Tyrna takes a sample of water from a Sarasota roadside ditch. Provided photo

Abbey Tyrna brings an impressive record of personal, educational and professional dedication to protecting the precious natural resource of water to Suncoast Waterkeeper as its new executive director.

Tyrna has a doctorate in geography from the Pennsylvania State University, where her research focused on measuring the effects of development on wetlands. She worked with Sarasota County government and the University of Florida to help bring scientific knowledge and expertise to the public as the Water Resources Agent for UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability.

The board of Suncoast Waterkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for everyone’s right to clean water, is proud to welcome someone with Tyrna’s experience and credentials, chairman Rusty Chinnis said.

“The board and I look forward to making great progress under the direction of someone with the dedication, energy and expertise of Abbey Tyrna,” Chinnis said.

Raised in Cape Coral on Florida’s West Coast, the new executive director realized the importance of clean water — from ponds and creeks to coastal estuaries — when she spent her time as a child playing among mangrove forests.

"In seventh grade, I got to walk through Six Mile Cypress in Fort Myers,” she said.  “I was in water up to my chest, and I couldn't have been happier.  Even though it was 30-plus years ago, I still remember the serenity of the swamp and the feel of the water.  I knew the swamp was special and learned it was connected to our limited groundwater resources. From that day on, I devoted my education to learning about wetlands and protecting Florida waters.

“I am just one example of the impact that outdoor learning and environmental education have on developing lifelong stewardship."

She said joining Suncoast Waterkeeper is a natural extension of that work.

"At Suncoast Waterkeeper, I plan to expand our waterway monitoring efforts and staff capacity to engage the community and influence decision-makers to protect our waters.  I will seek out diverse voices and points of view.  In doing so, I hope to lead Suncoast Waterkeeper to realize its vision of clean water for all."

Before receiving her doctorate in 2015, Tyrna earned a master’s in Environmental Science concentrating on wetland science and management in 2008 and a bachelor’s in environmental studies from Florida State University in 2001.

Among many leadership roles in her field, Tyrna served as Secretary of the Association of Natural Resources Extension Professionals; co-created and chaired the Society of Wetland Scientists’ Wetlands of Distinction initiative; was a member of the UF/IFAS Extension and Sarasota County Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee; and is a Technical Advisor for the Natural Assets Advisory Committee with the Palmer Ranch Community Association in Sarasota.

She has taught at Penn State and the State College of Florida and written or co-written nearly 20 published academic papers.

Early in her career, she was a Junior Policy Analyst for OMB Watch in Washington, D.C.

She likes to kayak and paddleboard with her kids and has tried to make it out on every creek and bay in the Suncoast.

Tyrna lives in Sarasota County with her husband, two kids, a dog, and three pet rats.

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