Category Archives: Sea Grant Extension

Rich connections in District 14 affect students throughout the state

We asked Brandon Schroeder, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Sea Grant educator, to share with us about a strategic connection he has made that has strengthened his impact. Brandon’s current programming efforts involve fisheries science, biodiversity conservation, sustainable coastal tourism and Great Lakes education: working with coastal communities in northeastern Michigan to apply science-based knowledge to address Great Lakes issues locally.

“I value my Extension role in making connections and building relationships, and believe it’s an important role we play in our communities,” Brandon said.

Our questions and Brandon’s answers follow:

Will you tell us about a strategic connection you’ve made?

One successful educational partnership I’d like to highlight is with the statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) and our leadership for the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network. These relationships reflect rich connections made between schools and educators across northeastern Michigan – and the entire state – as well as fostering greater school-community partnerships. This place-based stewardship education initiative seeks to engage youth, through their learning, in environmental stewardship projects that make a difference in the community – and so youth also are connected as community partners.

How did you go about making the connection and building relationships?

  • Seeking organizational partners, building personal relationships: Early on, we identified an opportunity (with funding) to partner with the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and an emerging statewide GLSI network. With this in mind, we sought out and met regularly to recruit potential school and community partners who had mutual interests in connecting Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship with school learning opportunities.
  • Networking in regional meetings to foster relationships: In 2006, collaborating with 4-H colleagues, we hosted and facilitated the first of many regional networking meetings inviting school and community partners who had much to contribute and to gain in this Great Lakes and natural resource education conversation. This was an educational workshop also designed to serve a networking function by facilitating relationship-building and resource sharing among schools and partners. Conversations sparked during our first regional networking meeting, now an annual tradition, became the foundation for the NEMIGLSI partnership.
  • Facilitating an engaged leadership team: A regional leadership team for the NEMIGLSI was established and helped launched the initiative. This regional team still meets regularly to coordinate our educational efforts, provide shared leadership in implementing activities and collaborate around new opportunities (and securing new resources) for our growing NEMIGLSI network. Our leadership team is more than an advisory group; they are active contributors and beneficiaries in this joint programming.
  • Sharing investment, sharing successes: Leadership team partner organizations – community, school and teacher advisors – contribute significant time, expertise and resources toward NEMIGLSI network goals. In trade, we work to ensure that network programming and successes align with their own goals and educational initiatives.

What has been the outcome of this connection and how has it influenced your work and your district?

Our NEMIGLSI network and partnership is successfully fostering a growing place-based education culture in northeastern Michigan. Since 2009, more than 19,000 students (around 20 percent of student population annually) have engaged as Great Lakes stewards and valued community leaders through NEMIGLSI. This initiative has supported more than 35 schools (290 educators) from eight counties in professional development, community partners connections and stewardship project support. Numerous NEMIGLSI student projects have directly benefited Sea Grant and partner priorities helping to conserve Lake Huron’s biodiversity, map threatened and endangered species habitat, restore native fisheries, monitor water quality and vernal pool wetlands, manage invasive species, enhance aquatic habitat, investigate marine debris and more. A published program evaluation found that students value their learning experiences as hands-on and engaging, community connected, career oriented and fun. Perhaps most exciting is that students are serving as valued community and conservation partners today – and perhaps even more in their future!

Schroeder stands in the pond with three boys and is explaining the monitoring device in the water.

Schroeder engages students in wetland ecology: invasive phragmites monitoring.

Schroeder and a boy and a girl hold up a large net to do fisheries sampling.

Schroeder fisheries sampling with students during 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp

What have you learned (personally or professionally) from this connection?

  • Embrace the power in partnerships! We can all cover more ground more efficiently and effectively, and achieve deeper, richer impacts as a result of collaborative programming. Relationships and connections (or partnerships) are both organizational AND personal. They demand significant time, energy and a bit of patience to foster, and require ongoing attention, commitment and care.
  • Relationships and partner connections are equally important to our science or technical content expertise, and the educational processes and methods we use to deliver this content in communities.
  • In Extension, I have found the most vibrant and exciting projects to be at the intersections of stakeholders and opportunities that wouldn’t normally (or as regularly) cross paths. For example, connecting schools, educators and youth with Great Lakes scientists or community development partners. Many times I find that community expertise, ideas and resources abound once we have simply helped open a door for networking and relationship-building.

Thanks again to Brandon for taking time to share with us about his strategic connections. One of our great strengths in Extension is our ability to bring people, organizations and resources together to make a profound impact on our state. Each month, I’ve shared a story from each district highlighting strategic connections our colleagues have made in hopes that it will inspire all of us to reach out.

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Filed under 4-H, Conservation, Impacts, Invasive species, Partnerships, Sea Grant Extension, strategic connections

Congratulations to Michigan Sea Grant Educators

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network honored Michigan Sea Grant Extension with three awards during the network’s semi-annual conference in Cleveland, Ohio.

Mary Bohling – who serves the urban Detroit area addressing economic development, habitat restoration, coastal tourism and greenway/water trail development – received a mid-career award.

Brandon Schroeder – who serves coastal counties along Lake Huron in fishery, coastal tourism, business development, and youth engagement in coastal community development and stewardship – received the Distinguished Service Award.

The network also awarded the Michigan Sea Grant program with the network’s Great Lakes Outreach Programming Award for its Sustainable Small Harbors project, which aims to assist coastal communities in their planning efforts.

Read more about the awards on our Michigan State University Extension website.

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Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fisherman’s Association gives Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award to Michigan Sea Grant Educator

Head shot of Dan O'Keef with a distant lake in the background.Congratulations to Michigan State University Extension Michigan Sea Grant educator Dan O’Keefe on receiving the Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award from the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association. The association chose Dan for the award to honor his contributions to sport fishing and his work to research and expand fishing and the environment necessary for the sport. Dan serves seven counties along the coast of Lake Michigan and has developed many education and outreach programs such as citizen science programs and fishery workshops. He also completed a study and evaluation of charter and tournament fishing economic impacts that has led to a greater appreciation for a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem. Howard Tanner, former director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the MSU College of Ag and Natural Resources, is 94 and still supporting the stewardship of Michigan’s Great Lakes. He was at the ceremony to bestow the award. Read more about Dan and his award on the MSU Extension website.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Awards, Sea Grant Extension

Michigan Science Teachers Association Names MSU Extension Sea Grant Educator the 2017 Informal Science Educator of the Year

Headshot of Brandon Schroeder in front of green leaves, wearing a blue polo that says Sea Grant.Congratulations to Brandon Schroeder, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Sea Grant educator, for his selection by the Michigan Science Teachers Association for its 2017 Informal Science Educator of the Year Award. The award honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of science education in an informal or nontraditional school setting.

Brandon is the Northeast Michigan District Extension educator for northern Lake Huron coastal communities and provides programming in tourism, community, economic development, natural resources, water quality, and lakes, streams and watersheds.

Brandon works with school-community partnerships, provides professional development for educators and supports youth working on stewardship projects as part of the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative. He also leads efforts around MSU Extension’s statewide 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp. Find out more about the award and about Brandon on our website in his feature article by Cindy Hudson.

Congratulations again, and thank you for your service!

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Coming together to save lives: Strategic connections in District 2

Ronald Kinnunen is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Michigan Sea Grant educator in the Upper Peninsula. He provides technical and educational programs in his district and statewide in the areas of Great Lakes commercial fisheries and aquaculture. Michigan Sea Grant, an MSU Extension collaboration with the University of Michigan (UM), is connected to more than 40 coastal counties in the state.

Headshot of Ron Kinnunen.

Ron Kinnunen, photo courtesy of Ron.

Some of the programs Ron delivers are Seafood Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Aquatic Invasive Species HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity. Another important program has been educating the public about dangerous currents in the Great Lakes including rip, channel, longshore, structural and outlet currents. Since 1999, Ron has built and maintained partnerships and strategic connections around educating the public about these currents in order to save lives.

Twelve-year-old Travis Brown’s death in the summer of 1998 followed a similar pattern of drownings at the Hiawatha National Forest Service Campground, and U.S. Forest Service personnel began to question the safety of their waters for swimmers. Ron and Mary Kostecki, who was the Mackinac County Extension director at the time, were the first to meet with the U.S. Forest Service on the drowning issues. As a result, Ron and Mary led the formation of the Mackinac County Water Safety Review Team (MCWSRT). They facilitated bringing many groups to the table to join the team. Team members included Travis Brown’s family, the Mackinac County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State Police, the Mackinac County Office of Emergency Services, MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant, the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce, Allied EMS, Mackinac County 911, the St. Ignace News, the National Weather Service, Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft District Health Departments, the Hiawatha National Forest, First National Bank of St. Ignace, Cellular One, the Dunes Shore Resort, Moran Township, state departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard and the University of Michigan Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory.

The review team’s first task was to address drownings along the U.S. 2 shoreline and work to prevent future drownings. The group coordinated with emergency management personnel from several agencies, provided public service announcements in local media during the summer months, developed educational brochures and a traveling display, and placed signs warning swimmers of possible dangerous currents in the area of concern. Through these measures, the team was able to increase public awareness about dangerous currents along the northern Lake Michigan shoreline so swimmers and parents of young swimmers could take appropriate precautionary measures.

Additionally, the review team coordinated several public awareness days. At these events, information was presented on how dangerous currents develop and what swimmers can do to escape them. The team also provided tours of the safety stations that were placed every mile along the areas of concern. The stations include life rings, life jackets and a surf rescue board to facilitate the rescue of swimmers in trouble. The Michigan State Police and Mackinac County Sheriff’s Department now carry safety equipment in their patrol cars so they are ready to assist in dangerous current-related accidents.

Bringing everyone together was not always easy. In the beginning, Ron brought research results from Guy Meadows of the UM lab, confirming dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. He presented it to the National Weather Service office in Marquette. Many there were skeptical that dangerous currents existed in the Great Lakes. Over time, the National Weather Service participated in the team’s workshops and education and is now one of their strongest allies. The National Weather Service forecasts for these dangerous currents all over the Great Lakes. Ron’s efforts to reach out and bring in this partner resulted in families having access to National Weather Service forecasts that continue to save lives.

Ron and the review team’s efforts and accomplishments have become a model of efficiency and collaboration for other regional efforts throughout the Great Lakes

“I quickly learned that these efforts would be valuable in other Great Lakes coastal communities that experience dangerous currents,” he said.

He reached out to other Great Lakes Sea Grant programs and coordinated the first Great Lakes Rip Current conference that took place in St. Ignace.

“Additional partnerships were developed in the region working with the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network where National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Storms funds were received to purchase water safety and rescue equipment that has been deployed throughout the Great Lakes region where dangerous currents exist,” Ron said.

The MCWSRT was able to accomplish amazing tasks in a relatively short time and their efforts have been effective in saving lives. People are becoming aware of the potential dangers of Great Lakes dangerous currents and that there is safety equipment available in many areas in case of an emergency.

Jim Lucas, District 2 coordinator, witnessed the impact of Ron’s strategic connections.

“All the research and awareness of rip currents did not exist until Ron listened and networked the research, trained the EMT folks, networked with the Weather Channel and NOAA Weather … Ron makes connections that work,” Jim said. “By Ron listening, providing feedback, re-evaluating and networking with partner agencies, countless people have been saved because of this connection.”

Michigan Sea Grant also has been proud of the work Ron has accomplished.

“Ron has been a tremendous collaborator and community partner in the U.P. and throughout Michigan. He has covered a lot of territory for Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension for many years and we’ve long wanted to get him some additional help.” said Heather Triezenberg, Extension specialist and Michigan Sea Grant program coordinator. “We have just started a new partnership to house our new Sea Grant Extension educator Elliot Nelson on the campus of Lake Superior State University. Ron will play an important part in helping Elliot establish strategic connections in District 2 as Elliot develops his Extension programming to address needs in the region. However, Ron will continue to provide his training and educational expertise throughout the entire region.”

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Filed under Partnerships, Sea Grant Extension, strategic connections, Uncategorized

Senior Extension educator selected as the 2015 Informal Science Educator

Steve Stewart

Stephen Stewart

The Board of the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) has announced that Stephen Stewart has been selected as the 2015 Informal Science Educator. The winner was chosen for unique and extraordinary accomplishments, active leadership, scholarly contributions and direct and substantial contributions to the improvement of nonschool-based science education over a significant period of time. Employed by Michigan State University Extension since 1977, Stephen is a senior educator with Michigan Sea Grant Extension.

“This award does mean a lot to me because I think it’s always very rewarding and gratifying when your peers and your constituents are the ones giving you the awards,” he said. “No way is it a one-way award, because what I’ve accomplished I’ve done with the help of my Extension colleagues and my other colleagues in the Michigan Science Teachers Association.”

Stephen will be honored at an awards ceremony during a special dinner at the 2015 MSTA Conference in February 2015. We are proud of his accomplishments and thankful for his continued dedication.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Sea Grant Extension

Michigan Sea Grant receives positive feedback in review process

This week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Michigan Sea Grant Planning, Implementation and Evaluation Assessment. As part of the program evaluation that the National Sea Grant Office does every four years, each state program has a site review to determine the success of its performance. We have a very special relationship with University of Michigan in which the Michigan State University Extension Greening Michigan Institute supports efforts to carry out Michigan Sea Grant programs throughout Michigan.

The review took place at Belle Isle Nature Zoo in Detroit, and included presentations from Jim Diana, director of Michigan Sea Grant; Catherine Riseng, research program manager for Michigan Sea Grant; Bill Taylor, associate director for Michigan Sea Grant; Elizabeth LaPorte, Michigan Sea Grant management team; and Heather Triezenberg, program coordinator for Michigan Sea Grant Extension. Our Sea Grant educator team of Steve Stewart, Mary Bohling, Mark Breederland, Ron Kinnunen, Dan O’Keefe and Brandon Schroeder paired with stakeholders and collaborators to effectively tell of our partnerships and describe the impact of our programs.

Preliminary feedback from the review was very positive, and the review panel indicated that Michigan Sea Grant would be rated among the top of the country. The final results of the report are expected in late December. The team also indicated that there is an unusually high level of collaboration between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, which is very high praise to receive.

I’m very impressed with the work that our staff illustrated through their review and hope that our collaboration continues to thrive!

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