Colgate Searle, Jr., Principal

Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects

Registered Landscape Architect 

Our team is anchored by Colgate Searle, Jr., educator, practitioner, designer, mentor. He has worked for more than 40 years in the landscape architecture profession. He is a Fellow in the American Society of Landscape Architects and a Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

His partner in work and life Cecelia Searle was the driving force behind Searle and Searle for many years until her untimely death in 2012. In 2015 the firm became Searle Design Group.

Colgate is a Registered Landscape Architect in the state of Rhode Island, and Principal in the firm. Each project gets his personalized attention. His work and research focuses on the complex topic of environmental stewardship.

Colgate holds an undergraduate degree from RISD and a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University. He has lectured and been guest critic at Cornell, Harvard, Roger Williams University, Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, the University of Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

Taber Caton, Principal

Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects

Registered Landscape Architect in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts

CLARB Certified


Taber Caton recently returned to Rhode Island from Seattle, bringing experience in a wide range of projects for public and private clients.  This experience includes design of K-12 and higher education schools and senior housing. While living and working in Rhode Island, Taber also was an adjunct faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design. She will continue her work in environmentally sensitive and urban sites. As a passionate plants person, her teaching focused on applying horticultural practices within the profession.

Taber is delighted to be back in this region, raising a family and enjoying the great lifestyle of New England.  She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Landscape Architecture.  Taber has been practicing in the profession since 1998.

Melissa Bagga, Associate Principal

Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects

Registered Landscape Architect in Rhode Island

Member of the International Society of Arboriculture - New England Chapter

photo by Åsa Runefelt

photo by Åsa Runefelt

Melissa Bagga has worked at many scales at Searle Design Group; from master planning at Swan Point Cemetery to creating a Reading Terrace for the East Greenwich Free Library. Through this work, she strives to understand  the multiple, overlapping and often nonlinear stories of a place, examining the topography, planting, program, scale and historical importance of sites.

Melissa has taught landscape architecture courses at Roger Williams University and Rhode Island School of Design, where she graduated with a Master of Landscape Architecture. 

Prior to her time at RISD, she worked as a writer and editor in the Midwest. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and East Asian Studies from Indiana University. 

When she’s not at the office, Melissa spends her free time outdoors, sometimes climbing trees. She is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture - New England Chapter.

Jess Wilson, Intern

RISD MLA I Class of 2018

RISD ASLA Student Member

Jess Wilson joined SDG in summer of 2016. She has just completed her second year of the MLA I program at RISD. She has been involved in many aspects of work at Searle Design Group since she began including creating presentations and graphics, as well as working on plans in CAD and helping with site inventories. Jess graduated from Roger Williams University with a B.S. in Architecture and a minor in visual arts. Her design interests are rooted in social and environmental justice.