Growing up in Guilford, Gillian Carroll spent as much time as she could outside. Her father was a fireman at Eagle Hose in Guilford and her mother had a florist business in Guilford. Many times she remembers going to the docks for family picnics, exploring Grass Island, fishing, and taking hikes.
“We were always outside when we were younger. I did a lot of hiking,” says Gillian, now a resident of Branford. “I liked hiking the Westwoods trails a lot.”
Her early interest in the natural environment and environmental conservation, nurtured by her parents and the many hours she spent outside, led her to pursue studies in geography and terrain analysis in college.
“I was interested in pursuing something in environmental conservation,” says Gillian.
This budding interest was cemented, when, after graduating from Guilford High School a semester early, she went to live with her aunt in the Washington, D.C. for six months before college. Her aunt worked as a branch chief for the Environmental Protection Agency and this meant Gillian got opportunities to help her with clean-up of the Anacostia River in D.C. and of the C&O River Canal in D.C. and Maryland.
“We also did trail conservation,” says Gillian. “[The work] really brought out my passion.”
After college, she worked for two years as a project assistant for compliance and GIS (geographic information systems) mapping for a New Hampshire firm, doing lots of soil sampling.
“That’s where I found my niche in environmental science and regulatory affairs,” says Gillian.
After two years, however, she was ready to return home to the Connecticut shoreline. Her first post was working as a land steward supervisor for the Town of Guilford under the supervision of the environmental planner. Responsibilities included maintaining trails and managing preserves, but it was part-time.
Still seeking full-time work, she then found a job working for the Town of North Haven under the wetlands officer assisting with regulatory enforcement. She still was seeking a position with more responsibility, however, so she applied to the Town of Old Saybrook to fill the opening of environmental planner and wetlands enforcement officer, left open when Sandy Prisloe retired.
Last month, she started working 30 hours a week as Old Saybrook’s new environmental planner; her new office is in the Town Hall Land Use office on the third floor.
“I address wetlands concerns, respond to public inquiries, and take applications for any proposed work within 100 feet of the wetland area, called the 100-foot wetland review area,” Gillian says.
What kind of work? Everything from installing a fence or storage shed, or building a garage or patio, all require a wetlands permit if the work will occur within the wetlands upland review area. Clearing away debris deposited in the wetlands review area in the aftermath of a storm is an exception and doesn’t require a wetlands permit.
Gillian is the Old Saybrook town staff member who supports the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission, the Conservation Commission, and the Aquifer Protection Commission. In her spare time, she also does GIS mapping work like reviewing and/or creating maps.
She also helps the town develop a plan to address sea level rise.
“The challenge for the town is building awareness and understanding [of the issues]. Sea level rise is happening and the town will have to prepare for it. Education is a first step,” says Gillian.
Gillian admits she likes to be busy, so it’s not surprising that even while starting a new job, Gillian is also pursuing an online master’s degree. The program is through the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and will give her a masters in fisheries and aquatic science.
When not at work or studying, she’s spending time fishing, kayaking, and hiking—unless it’s one of those times during the year when people give flowers. That’s when she takes time to help her mom, Melissa Carroll, and her sister, Caitlin Sullivan, with the orders they take for their floral business, the Guilford Greenery Flower Shop on Water Street. Just as when she was younger, as the holidays, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day approaches, everyone pitches in to help make holiday centerpieces, bouquets and arrangements.
“I’m a very active person and I like to stay busy and be outside. Even in the winter there are things to find,” says Gillian. “I’ve always had a passion for conservation so it’s nice to be able to incorporate that interest into what I now do for work.”