Assateague Coastkeeper Gabby Ross

Assateague COASTKEEPER® Gabby Ross, is an on-the-water advocate who patrols and protects the Maryland and Northern Virginia Eastern Shore coastal bays, standing up to polluters, and granting everyone’s right to clean water. The Coastkeeper provides a voice for waterways when they cannot speak for themselves…to defend their right to be clean and healthy, swimmable and fishable. The Assateague COASTKEEPER, a program of Assateague Coastal Trust, began in 2002. 

The Coastkeeper is an in-the-trenches advocate for the health of the coastal bays and the communities who depend on them; making sure existing laws to protect water quality are fully enforced, pressing for the enactment of stronger measures to safeguard our marshes, creeks and bays, and standing up to polluters and policymakers to hold them accountable for their actions.

Throughout the year, Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT) and the Assateague Coastkeeper, a program of Assateague Coastal Trust, embark on various campaigns to raise public awareness on matters of concern to our watershed. Read more here.

Gabby Ross is Assateague Coastal Trust’s 3rd Coastkeeper. As a young girl, Gabby enjoyed exploring Delmarva with her family- learning how to fish, clam and crab. She found an escape in the coastal waters of Delmarva, where the rich fertile soils, bountiful waters and seemingly endless landscapes fueled her passion in conservation and environmental stewardship. She earned her BS degree in Environmental Science at Salisbury University. Her commitment to the protecting coastal watersheds has been reflected working for the Maryland Park Service, Delaware Natural Resources, and forming a grassroots citizen activist group named Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs (CCAIC).

She has spent the last few years fighting the growing expansion of Industrial-scale poultry operations on the shore, as well as the fighting for more water and air quality monitoring. This grassroots effort also petitioned to make citizens aware of the environmental and social justices’ issues still present in many counties. In 2020 she received the Water Warrior Award from Waterkeepers Chesapeake for her efforts protecting the Paleo Channel underground aquifer, introducing new zoning laws to protect citizens from expanding poultry operations and working on introducing the Community Healthy Act. 

Kathy Phillips was the Assateague Coastkeeper for 15 years and retired as Coastkeeper at the end of 2021. She has received many awards for her work as the Assateague Coastkeeper, including the 2021 Waterkeeper Outstanding Win (WOW) award for her work fighting for clean water and environmental justice for communities in the Lower Eastern Shore and coastal bays region.

actforbays.org/coastkeeper

facebook.com/AssateagueCoastkeeperOCMD

Twitter.com/Coastkeeper

Instagram.com/coastkeeper

Advocacy

The COASTKEEPER® is an in-the-trenches advocate for the health of the coastal bays and the communities who depend on them; making sure existing laws to protect water quality are fully enforced, pressing for the enactment of stronger measures to safeguard our marshes, creeks and bays, and standing up to polluters and policymakers to hold them accountable for their actions.

The Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign calls attention to the destructive pollution practices of industrialized meat production, ensures compliance with environmental laws, and supports the traditional family farms that industrial practices endanger.

Protect Our Coast campaign works to stop offshore oil and gas drilling. In 2015-2016, ACT led the successful effort in Maryland and Delaware to generate opposition to the federal government’s proposal to open the mid- and south-Atlantic coastal waters to offshore oil and gas development. They also were instrumental in getting all coastal municipalities in MD and DE to pass resolutions opposing seismic surveys and offshore drilling. Efforts to stop seismic surveys and oil and gas drilling continue because federal efforts to open up the Atlantic coast have been renewed under the current administration.

Patrolling

The COASTKEEPER® is an on-the-water monitor who patrols the watershed by boat in search of evidence of pollution or other water quality problems such as dredging, illegal buffer clearing, or illicit discharges to our water. Regular aerial monitoring of the coastal watershed complements the COASTKEEPER® boat patrol program. The COASTKEEPER® also reaches out to and engages citizens to provide additional eyes, ears and even noses to identify and report pollution sources.

Watershed Monitoring

The COASTKEEPER® conducts a water quality monitoring program from May to September. She samples weekly for important indicators of bay water health, such as dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, salinity, and water clarity. It is critical to monitor for water quality in order to accurately assess the condition of the waterways in our watershed. 

Harmful bacteria can be found in our waterways after heavy rains. These bacteria pose a human health risk, and COASTKEEPER® monitors bacteria levels to inform our community of that risk. She conducts weekly bacteria monitoring between Memorial Day and Labor Day and posts these results on the website each Friday. Results are also posted on The Swim Guide mobile phone app.

Public Education

The COASTKEEPER® is an on-the-ground educator who informs the public about environmentally friendly practices they can employ to prevent adverse impacts on the land and waters, and also keeps the public informed about legislative or policy making decisions that may have environmentally protective or adverse impacts on the watershed. The COASTKEEPER® works with the community to help us help ourselves.