Tom French, Director of Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). will be the keynote speaker at the annual Parker River Clean Water Association (PRCWA) meeting. DATE:Sunday, March 1, 2015 TIME: 1:00pm Location: Newbury library on Lunt Street in Byfield Rte. 95 exit 55 Central Street west, one block and turn left on Lunt Street. The library is at the end of Lunt Street on the left side. Refreshments will be served. The public is invited. Tom will speak on the mission of NHESP and PRCWA's program of "headstarting" Endangered Blanding's turtles. Head starting gives turtles a boost up. Teachers in local school classes have agreed to "headstart" Blanding's hatchlings, improving their chances of survival and not becoming trail snacks for predators before they reach maturity. When a species such as the Blanding's is endangered, the loss of hatchlings is especially damaging to the animals' long-term survival. Head starting is an effort to boost the population to a healthy level. The positive results with other headstarted turtle species demonstrate the program's success. NHESP was created in 1983 with the goal of protecting and conserving rare and threatened species in Massachusetts. The Program works to identify what State species are rare and need to be protected. The program's biggest success so far is bald eagles. When the program started in 1983, the state didn't have any bald eagle nests, but there are now 40 protected pairs across the Commonwealth. Tom has served as Director of NHESP since 1984. He grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and has a Ph.D. in Ecology and Systematics from Indiana State University. He was formerly a zoologist with The Nature Conservancy and an instructor-naturalist and field biologist with the National Audubon Society. He has served on numerous committees of scientific societies and conservation organizations, and endangered species recovery teams. He has written many papers on small mammals, birds and herptiles, and works frequently with the media to foster greater public interest in conservation. Organizing the annual Massachusetts bald eagle count, rappelling down a Boston high rise to band peregrine chicks, or studying a dead whale on the beach, are just a few of the tasks in Tom's life. He is an interesting and dynamic speaker who is passionately committed to the work of NHESP. He is sure to be enjoyed by all.