The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 27, 2001


Burn Appointed to ConsCom

The Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) has been brought up to full strength with the appointment of Peter Burn to replace Carolyn Kiely who resigned April 6. A professor of biology and coordinator of the Marine Science Program at Suffolk University, Burn has lived in Carlisle since 1982. He was recommended by the commission and named to the post by the selectmen on July 17, following a brief stint as ConsCom liaison to the board of health on the issue of joining the Eastern Middlesex Mosquito Control District.

A specialist in marine ecology with a Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire, Burn has studied the effect of water pollution and waste disposal on fish and shellfish. His current research is on biodiversity in "the great salt marshes" that stretch from Cape Ann in Massachusetts to Seabrook, New Hampshire.

In a telephone interview Burn related that in the course of his research on marine invertebrates, he recognized that whole ecosystems are tightly interconnected on both a regional and global level. This led to a five-year catch-up study of plant life from wildflowers to marsh grasses. In fact he has become a proselytizer, extolling the pleasures of greater familiarity with the plant world. His enthusiasm led to a project to develop a method that allows people to identify plants more easily. As an example, he takes pictures in a salt marsh through the seasons, identifying individual species at various stages, and then creates a data base on the Internet to make field study far easier. His method could be applied to a variety of habitats and ecosystems.

As absorbed as Burn has been in his research, he has found time to be active in regional watershed activities. He has served on three Sudbury/Assabet/Concord (SuAsCo) non-profit organizations, most actively as a member of the executive committee of the SuAsCo Watershed Community Council, which is working to forge a coalition of municipal representatives plus leaders from the private sector to concentrate on watershed concerns. Thus, he readily agreed to be ConsCom's representative on one of them.

When asked why he decided to add ConsCom to his busy calendar, Burn explained that it was his work with the watershed organizations that convinced him of the importance of grassroots participation and of the exceptional talent and dedication that exists in local communities. "Working on environmental issues at the federal, state and regional level is rather imperial," he said, "but at the Carlisle level it becomes personal. It's something I wanted to do and something I should be reasonably good at."

Asked about the razor-edged defeat at Town Meeting of the ConsCom's bylaw protecting vernal pools and isolated wetlands, Burn said he supported the bylaw changes and was disappointed they hadn't been adopted. "Water is a common resource for the town, and protecting its quality should be a concern for everyone," he said. "But how you balance that with property rights is where people diverge." Burn added that he was "surprised" at how fervently many speakers at Town Meeting defended their personal prerogatives, even though ConsCom promised that the changes would not result in takings. "Finding a reasonable balance between responsibility to the common good while respecting private rights is reason enough to join the commission," he concluded.

Burn and his wife Lisa grew up in Scituate and moved to their home on Partridge Lane when their jobs brought them to this side of Boston. Carlisle's rural atmosphere was ideal ground for their interests in hiking, mountain biking and taking care of the homestead. Burn will assume his ConsCom duties at the August 16 meeting.

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