Michigan State University’s Fall Extension Conference is an annual opportunity for Extension staff to gather (virtually, this year) to share educational and professional development opportunities, hear updates from organization leadership, and enhance partnerships. The 5-day event also serves as an awards ceremony that celebrates milestones and achievements from Extension staff and their operational partners.

In 2021, Michigan Sea Grant and partners came away with a host of accolades:

Emerging Issues Award: Michigan Sea Grant COVID-19 Rapid Response programming

In 2020, businesses dependent on Great Lakes fish struggled to remain viable amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these challenges, MISG received a $100,000 COVID-19 rapid response grant from the National Sea Grant Office, which aimed to help assess the aquaculture, commercial fishing, and charter fishing industries in Michigan in response to 2020 impacts. Extension educators Daniel O’Keefe, Lauren Jescovitch, and Elliot Nelson provided education and outreach and conducted listening sessions with fishery industry members. Program leader Heather Triezenberg was key in grant application, administration, and project design. The team’s efforts played a role in informing and securing $15 million in the second round of federal CARES Act funding for commercial, aquaculture, processor, and charter fishery participants in Great Lakes States. The Michigan Sea Grant COVID-19 Rapid Response team’s quick actions and assessments of the issues the pandemic was having on the fishing industry helped pave the way for the businesses to eventually receive both financial and moral support, making the team a worthy recipient of the MSU Extension Emerging Issues/Rapid Response Award. Watch the ceremony video featuring the Rapid Response project here.

MSU Extension Key Partner Awards: Huron Pines

Serving Michigan for more than four decades, Huron Pines has conserved and enhanced northern Michigan’s natural resources to ensure healthy water, protected places, and vibrant communities. A signature program is the Huron Pines AmeriCorp program, a service and workforce development program that helps develop conservation leaders. Huron Pines has partnered with Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension for many years, enhancing communities through conservation projects, place-based education partnerships, workforce development, and community service partnerships. Michigan Sea Grant Extension educators Brandon Schroeder and Meaghan Gass nominated this valuable partner for the award, which recognizes individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to creating, improving, or promoting MSU Extension programs. Watch the ceremony video featuring Huron Pines here.

MSU Institute Team Awards: Michigan Water School

The policy-neutral, fact-based Michigan Water School program equips elected and appointed officials to make informed decisions about water management issues. Michigan Sea Grant staff, including Mary Bohling, Katelyn Brolick, Vanessa Pollok, Heather Triezenberg, and Cindy Hudson have played a key role in developing, implementing, and supporting Michigan Water School.

Distinguished Academic Staff Award: Daniel O’Keefe

Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Dan O’Keefe, serving west Michigan, was honored with a prestigious Distinguished Academic Staff award. The award celebrates academic specialists and MSU Extension staff who embody extraordinary achievement, excellence, and exceptional contributions in their field. Dan’s commitment to sharing science-based information makes him a valuable asset to recreational anglers, charter fishers, lake management agencies, and others in his seven-county district. He has launched several community science initiatives that help anglers gather vital fishery data, including the “Great Lakes Angler Diary” virtual reporting app. As an Ottawa County Parks employee noted in support of Dan’s award nomination, “Not every educator is a research scientist and not every scientist is a true educator. However, O’Keefe is one of a few people who does both very well.”

Staff Milestones

Several Michigan Sea Grant staff also marked milestones in their service with MSU Extension: Rochelle Sturtevant (20 years), Mary Bohling (15 years), Heather Triezenberg (10 years), and Elliot Nelson (5 years).

Congratulations to one and all!