Mission Statement · History · Board of Directors · Staff

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The mission of the South Fork Natural History Museum & Nature Center – SoFo is to stimulate interest in, advance knowledge of, and foster appreciation for the natural environment, with special emphasis on the unique natural history of Long Island’s South Fork.

The goals of the museum and nature center are to:

  • Engender in children and adults a sensitivity to the natural world through direct observation and joyous hands-on nature experiences in the museum and in the out-of-doors, and to give them the tools they need to become engaged and responsible caretakers of our planet now and in the future.

  • Procure, preserve, document, study, and display material relevant to the natural history of the South Fork of Long Island.

  • Serve as a central source of local natural history information with facilities and programming designed for all segments of the public – from the interests of children to those of the scientific community.

  • Work in partnership with other educational and environmental organizations on the local, state and federal level.

    To carry out its mission the museum presents hands-on interactive exhibits and guided educational experiences, in the museum and in the out-of-doors. All programs are designed to:

  • Encourage direct observation and hands-on exploration of the natural world.

  • Emphasize the universal interconnectedness of all living things and stress the need for conservation and preservation of our natural resources.

  • Raise the level of ecological awareness to prepare the individual to make intelligent environmental decisions.

  • Provide joyous experiences that will inspire the pursuit of future explorations and curiosity as well as foster a lifelong fascination and affection for nature.


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    SoFo's Founding:

    In 1988 a group of South Fork naturalists concerned about the future of the area’s fragile ecosystems formed a membership organization called the South Fork Natural History Society, familiarly known as SoFo.

    Their objective was twofold --- to increase public awareness about the past, present, and future of eastern Long Island’s natural history and to share with others the joy they found when they went out “in the field,” exploring and learning.

    It was their hope that after establishing the Society as an important resource for nature education they would establish the first, major natural history museum and nature center on the South Fork. The museum’s galleries, with live and recreated exhibits, its educational programs on and off-site, and its many outdoor nature walks and programs, would teach people about the rich natural heritage of the area, demonstrate how nature works and foster environmental awareness. The museum exhibits would be layered so that they would provide meaningful nature experiences for the beginning student or the advanced naturalist.

    Since they believed that the best nature experiences take place in-the-field, the museum’s role would be to interpret what is experienced in the out-of-doors and give visitors the tools they needed to further their knowledge so they might learn on their own, through the shared pleasure of exploring with others, or through advanced study.

    After its beginnings in 1988, the Society developed quickly. In 1989 SoFo obtained its charter from the New York State Department of Education, as well as its not-for-profit, 501 (c) 3 status. By its first year of operation SoFo had a growing membership and a number of nature walks and programs for its members and the general public.

    The Nature Clubhouse and SoFo's Programs:

    During these initial years the organization operated out of a small building in Amagansett called the Nature Clubhouse. This informal exhibition and teaching space was supplemented by two freshwater ponds which served as living laboratories for the study of native plants and animals.

    The Clubhouse was a draw for many children who made repeated visits to study the amphibians and reptiles housed there. Others came to learn about the insects they netted from the pond waters. Still others came to watch the process of metamorphosis of butterflies or frogs.

    The Nature Clubhouse was a place to hang out, do research for school reports, mull over the bones and feathers, seashells and wildflowers, pond water and land insects, and sticky slugs, found on the shelves and tables.

    It was also a place to bring that unknown treasure, an insect specimen or a special flower for identification, to experiment with microscopes and magnifying glasses, and to learn how an insect sees. In short, it was loads of fun.

    Children from local schools visited the Clubhouse as did Scout troops and students in after-school programs. Many of the children who visited the Clubhouse in the early years of SoFo became active participants years later in the yet to be realized South Fork Natural History Museum.

    The Clubhouse often went “on-the-road” taking amphibians and reptiles along to present nature programs in libraries, schoolrooms, clubs and senior citizens centers. And adults gathered at the Clubhouse as well – to plan where to set up Bluebird nest-box trails to encourage the nesting of diminishing populations of Bluebirds, to get plans for making bird boxes, to leave questions for SoFo naturalists about what native plants to use in their gardens, or they came just to meet others and to see what new animal had arrived at the Clubhouse.

    During the summer months SoFo augmented its winter, spring, and fall school programs with nature programs in libraries and summer camps.

    In many ways the SoFo Nature Clubhouse served as a prototype in planning the South Fork Natural History Museum as a place of exploration and discovery.

    Throughout the 1990s SoFo had a full schedule of weekend nature walks and programs. Many were led by Board members. Others were led by an impressive list of local naturalists. Among its many programs, SoFo sponsored an important conference on the future of the endangered Eastern Tiger Salamander. The conference brought together experts on amphibians and provided information about the environmental pressures on the lives of our local animals.

    Under SoFo’s auspices the Town of East Hampton erected “Caution – Box Turtle Crossing” signs on local roadways to alert the constantly growing number of drivers to the possibility of box turtles crossing the road.

    The organization produced a series of seasonally relevant nature news spots that were broadcast on local radio, a variety of nature publications including checklists about wildlife on the South Fork, and a website designed to give the public access to the ogranization.
    Building the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center:

    In 1999, eleven years after its founding, and after an exhaustive search for an appropriate site, the Society’s dream of establishing the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center was realized. In that year the Society purchased three acres and two buildings in Bridgehampton, New York, at 377 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, on which to build the first and only Natural History Museum and Nature Center on the South Fork.

    The Bridgehampton site was chosen because of its important natural location and the opportunities it afforded for interpretive research. Contiguous with over 800 acres of preserved land owned by the Town of Southampton, Suffolk County and the Nature Conservancy, the site is part of the Long Pond Greenbelt system. This natural system, with nine miles of hiking trails, stretches from glacial moraine highlands near Sag Harbor on the north to Sagaponack and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. The Greenbelt is one of the unique natural treasures of New York State due to its rich biodiversity and its many species of rare and endangered animals and plants.

    The Society began the construction of the $5 million dollar, 6,400 square foot Museum and Nature Center, designed by the New York firm of Rogers Marvel Architects, in April 2001. The building process included stripping the existing structure to its framing, enlarging the panoramic observation deck and completely restructuring the building to accommodate the needs of the museum. A geothermal system was put in place for heating and cooling. The area surrounding the museum was landscaped by the design firm of Quennell Rothchild & Partners using native trees, shrubs, and plants.

    SoFo received grants from both the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Development to help with costs of designing and constructing the museum. The remaining costs were offset by foundation grants and individual contributions.

    On May 31, 2005, after 16 years of planning, the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center opened its doors to the public.

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    Andy Sabin - President
    James T. Ash - Vice President
    Jonathan Sabin – Treasurer
    William G. Miller – Secretary
    Barbara Blaisdell
    Steve Englebright
    Kimberly Goff
    George Held
    Jeffrey Keil
    George Larsen
    Jonathan Marvel
    Carl Safina
    Eric Salzman
    Richard Schaeffer
    Daniel Shedrick
    Peddrick Weis
    Wayne Whitmore

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    Frank Quevedo - Executive Director


    Carol Crasson - 
    Education & Communications Director

    Crystal Possehl - Nature Educator
    Lindsey Rohrbach -
    Nature Educator
    Tyler Armstrong - Nature Educator
     Melanie Meade - Nature Educator
    Nicole Cummings - Nature Educator


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