50 years of experience building successful organizations through strategic communication, planning and leadership vision




With a background in both conservation and business, Philip Conkling launched the Island Institute in 1983, where he served as its leader for 30 years.

Philip is the founding publisher of Island Journal and the author of Islands in Time and the founding publisher and editor for The Working Waterfront circulated monthly to 65,000 readers along the coast of Maine and across the country. Conkling’s book, The Fate of Greenland – Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change won the Phi Beta Kappa best science book of the year in 2011. Recently has become a contributing editor to Maine magazine.

Conkling currently serves on the board of Fox Island Wind, a community wind power company that has brought energy independence to the communities of Vinalhaven and North Haven off the coast of Maine. Philip’s formal education includes a B.A from Harvard University (1970) and a M.F.S. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (1976) and in 2013 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Bowdoin College.

In Maine, ‘Never’ Takes Seven Years

“I was reminded of the powerful force mentors exert on impressionable minds when I recently returned to my forestry school for a memorial service honoring a great professor, who was my first and most valuable mentor.

Dave Smith wrote the textbook that most foresters still useThe Practice of Silviculturethat was, and is, a wonderfully rich combination of ecological detail and practical approaches to understanding how forests change over time and how foresters can nudge Mother Naturewithin certain limitsto produce the products and services societies depend upon. But beyond that, Dave Smith was a real person. His dry humor was as legendary as the proverbial drying of paintif you didn’t listen carefully, you might not hear it all.

I recently dug out the notebook I kept from Smith’s silviculture (from the Latin silvi, or forest, the art and science of growing crops of trees) course during spring 1975. I kept notes in the margins on his use of language. Most of his wisdom could be applied to life itself. Dave distrusted dogmatic presentation of ideas; he objected to the “magnificence of hindsight” among those who would “whoop it up” over some supposed new insight. He wanted us to keep our minds open and flexiblein his words, to “keep several different strings to our bow,” and, “to cook up new strategies” lest we “blunt our pick” on stubborn facts and “get blown from hell to breakfast.” He was careful about overgeneralizing lest we fall into the habit of “racing the engine pretty hard,” by trying to “cover too much waterfront” and end up “being disappointed in love.”

Dave reminded us to ground our ideas in the field so that we wouldn’t “exceed the speed limit in the arm chair,” or worse, “write the Lord’s prayer on the head of a pin.” Overly bookish people, in Dave’s mind, were apt to “chew the corners of their typewriter.” Fuzzy-headed thinking, on the other hand, would be equally dismissed as “flapping around in the breeze.” Knowledge was to be put into action, otherwise we were just “throwing dead cats” at a problem, allowing “our forgettery to outrun our memory,” or risk having the “whole thing disappear down an Orwellian memory hole.”

When Dave and I worked together in Maine, he counseled me not to get discouraged when an important silvicultural idea was rejected out of hand because it would never be adopted in Maine. Dave let me know that he had been told this many times by Maine foresters over the years; the first time he was told one of his ideas would never be accepted in Maine, it took 10 years to take hold. The second time foresters told him something he advocated for would never happen in Maine, it took eight years; the third time, three years. From this Dave concluded: “In Maine, ‘never,’ on average, takes seven years.

Dave Smith’s voice still echoes in my ears and has helped ground me in the value of practical solutions to complicated problems. His advice has proven valuable over and over again in the intervening years, including to our expanding roster of interesting and innovative partnering clients, whose work we profile here.”



Peter Ralston has photographed the coast of Maine since 1978, drawn especially to the working communities that define coastal Maine’s character. Peter’s work has appeared in countless books and magazines and has also been featured on network television and exhibited in galleries, collections and museums throughout the United States and abroad.

In 2003 Peter was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree at Colby College in recognition of his photographic contributions as well as his role as co-founder of the Island Institute. Peter is currently working on a major book about Penobscot Bay, Maine, and overseeing the management of Ralston Gallery, Rockport, Maine.

For more details about Peter’s work, visit  www.ralstongallery.com/about.


Paige is responsible for the “look and feel” for all of our clients’ communication materials. Paige began her career at MPBN-TV where she developed advertising and graphics for television and radio shows. She then worked at Camden Communications Inc., as its art and production director as the company launched multiple trade publications for the computer industry. In the early 1990s, Paige helped launch and became a principal at Parker Taylor & Co., which launched ImagingWorld (IW), an IT publication now known as KMWorld. As art director for IW, Parker oversaw magazine design and production and developed graphics for trade shows and media kits.

More recently, Paige has worked with a variety of non-profit clients, including the Horizons program and Youth Arts in the Camden and Rockport school systems. At the Island Institute, she was responsible for the design and production of a variety of publications including Holding Ground, the Best of Island Journal 1984-2004, Lobsters Great and Small, the third edition of Islands in Time and the materials for Sustaining A Way of Life capital campaign.


Bridget Leavitt is a marketing and design consultant, focused on getting local business up and running in the virtual world and developing print materials for distribution. From logos and brochures to web design and Facebook pages, Bridget helps small business develop branding ideas and navigate the ways of web, print and social media for maximum exposure and effective messaging.

In her previous role as publication director for the Island Institute, she had major responsibility for graphic design, pre-press production, and print management for advertisements, brochures, membership materials, booklets, books, and exhibit/display pieces and produced a vast collection of tasteful, effective print and web-based materials while managing print buying, securing high-quality work at the most competitive price within agreed-upon budgets. In addition to her current work, she has a background in photo studio and office management, studio photography, fine arts and problem solving. Leavitt also currently serves as a Knox County Adviser for the Maine Community Foundation.

Image: Peter Ralston © 2016