Sarah P. Bernhardt, Ph.D., Named President & CEO of the Bayou Preservation Association

The Bayou Preservation Association has named Sarah P. Bernhardt, Ph.D., as its new President & CEO, effective immediately. She will lead the organization in realizing its vision of a network of healthy bayous, streams and watersheds through conservation, preservation, restoration and responsible watershed management. As head of the nonprofit, she will work in strategic partnership with the board of directors, advocate for its mission, programs and projects and help develop science-based solutions to watershed issues. 

Dr. Bernhardt comes to Bayou Preservation Association from the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality, (TCEQ) where she served as program manager since 2013, directing the administrative and technical activities of the Galveston Bay Estuary Program (GBEP) and overseeing implementation of the Galveston Bay Plan, a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan prepared under the National Estuary Program of the Clean Water Act. She managed a team of seven full-time employees with an annual budget of $1.5 million in state and federal funding.

“The Bayou Preservation Association is thrilled to bring Dr. Sarah P. Bernhardt on board as our new President & CEO to lead us in carrying out our mission of restoring and celebrating Houston’s most important natural resource – bayous,” says Robert Rayburn, Bayou Preservation Association Board President. “We had many excellent candidates, but Dr. Bernhardt stood out with her depth of policy and planning experience and her wealth of knowledge in natural resource management and the environmental sciences. She is the perfect choice for a visionary leader who will advocate, collaborate and educate to further Bayou Preservation Association’s goals in the coming years.”

Rayburn noted that Bayou Preservation Association is unique, as it supports all of the greater Houston area bayous and waterways, while working with groups that concentrate on a specific bayou and its watershed. The organization focuses its work to celebrate, protect and restore our bayous in four key program areas:  bayou appreciation, bayou citizen science, stream corridor restoration, and trash-free bayous.  Related activities include educational seminars, behind-the-scenes advocacy and collaborative efforts to enhance public awareness and best practices for the region's bayous and streams.
Prior to TCEQ and GBEP, Bernhardt spent time in the academic world. She received her Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Science, Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, in 2010 from Texas A&M University. Her dissertation was “Evaluating Florida’s coastal protected areas: A model for coastal management plan evaluation.” Academic positions at Texas A&M include research assistant, guest lecturer and facilitator and research fellow in the Sustainable Coastal Margins Program, including flood planning research.

Additionally, Bernhardt worked as education and outreach media specialist for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, part of NOAA, (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) where she coordinated K-12 educator seminars funded by the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. She also held positions in research.

Bernhardt received her Master of Science in Zoology in the Department of Biology from Texas A&M and a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in addition to publishing numerous professional articles. Locally, she has served on several advisory councils, boards and committees in the environmental and urban planning arenas.