Volunteers Donate Over 7,500 Hours to ISEA

Inland Seas Education Association presented their Year in Review at the ISEA Education Center on Tuesday, January 10. This yearly Seminar Series kick-off included a summary of ISEA programs, science data collected over time, and an outlook for 2017. Volunteers and supporters of Inland Seas attended despite the less than ideal winter weather.

Tom Maynard, ISEA Volunteer Coordinator, began the presentation by sharing that Spring and Fall Schoolship programs had 2,329 participants in 2016. An additional 1,104 people participated in summer programs which included public sails, charters, and member sails. The Young People in STEM programs grew to 38 young men and women participating in 2016, doubling the number of sails and participants from 2014.

One hundred and thirty volunteers donated 7,564 hours in 2016 which equates to $178,054.52 in in-kind donations, based on the IRS volunteer hourly rate used by nonprofits. Approximately half of these hours, 3,050, occurred onboard the schooners where volunteers instructed students at various stations on the ship. An additional 1,713 hours came from volunteer crew who in addition to sailling the schooner Inland Seas, also help to maintain it in the off-season. “Without our volunteers, we could never provide the quality Schoolship programs we do at an affordable rate.” said Maynard. Ninety-three percent of volunteers who completed the year-end survey stated they enjoy their volunteer experience with ISEA and feel their contribution is making a difference.

ISEA’s Schoolship goals of hands-on learning with a clear purpose and focused objectives was achieved in 2016 according to Jeanie Williams, Lead Scientist and Education Coordinator. “This year we developed a new evaluation process to capture the student experience and learn if we are meeting our goals.” Students were surveyed before and after their Schoolship experience to determine the change in their attitudes about the Great Lakes and what they learned through the program.

During the summer of 2016, Inland Seas connected and partnered with a variety of organizations, companies, and groups for multi-day or charter programs. According to Ben Hale, Inland Seas Captain, these multi-day or chartered programs brought the schooner to 17 ports/anchorages from Frankfort to Alpena. Due to a donated schooner (the Utopia) and three grants received in 2016, ISEA will be offering new programs in 2017. An ROV program is being developed that will be delivered off Utopia‘s deck at Discovery Pier; the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, coordinated by Michelle Handke, is a placed-based education collaborative that connects classrooms with commuity partners throughout the school year to develop a new generation of stewards; and a Great Lakes Watershed Field Course will provide teacher professional development, support student stewardship projects, and coordinate year-long collaboration.

The science data collected from 2016 programs along with comparison charts to past years was shared. Water temperatures for 2016 were reported to be above the median for 2015 for the entire sailing season. Inland Seas performed 70 fish trawls in Suttons Bay and 42 in Grand Traverse Bay during 2016. Ninety-two percent of the fish caught were round gobies, compared to 97% percent in 2015. Water clarity declined in 2016 which is a positive indicator, showing that more plankton is in the water which is necessary for the feeder fish to grow.

Executive Director, Fred Sitkins, shared how ISEA has accomplished their three-year strategic goals of increasing revenue, increasing the impact of education programs, improving volunteer engagement, and increasing awareness of Inland Seas. To increase revenue, ISEA focused on the social enterprise model, increased the donor base through the assistance of a challenge grant, and improved interal insfrastructure and procedures for donations and reservations. The impact of educational programs was accomplished through expanding and improving Schooship and summer programs. Over the last three years ISEA has added Next Gen and Diving Deeper Schoolship programs as well as increasing multi-day summer programming. A new volunteer training and recognition program was implemented in 2016 to improve volunteer engagement. “Due to our additional efforts to increase awareness of ISEA, we’ve received the schooner Utopia and have increased charter revenue.” said Sitkins. On ISEA’s horizon for 2017 is a continued focus on reducing costs, optimizing revenue, broadening their educational reach, increasing teacher professional development, expanding programming aboard Utopia, planning for the Captain Thomas M. Kelly Biological Station, and working with Rotary Charities to lauch a variety of activities at the newly developed Discovery Pier.

More information about the Inland Seas 2016 Year in Review can be found on their website.

The remaining ISEA Seminar Series include The Fate of the Schooner Nelson on February 14th, Oil Under the Ice Training Scenario on March 14th, and Selective Fish Passage Project on the Boardman River on April 11th. Additional information about these presentations will be availlable soon.