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News from the NMEA National Office: Creating Great Stories with our Chapters

Posted By Jeannette Connors, Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I like to think of hosting an NMEA conference the way that American novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the construction of a great story. He says that “easy reading is damn hard writing.”

Chapters BookNMEA has 16 regional Chapters (14 currently active) and each year one of these Chapters takes on the daunting task of planning an NMEA conference. Because these conferences run so smoothly and are so successful, our Chapters make it look like easy work. Assisting them behind the scenes gives the National Office a glimpse into how much work and how much time is involved in planning these events. Attending a conference is stimulating and satisfying, like a novel that is engrossing and easy to read. The only requisite is to show up, relax and enjoy. These conferences are fascinating from the Introduction to the last Chapter.

Queen Mary Bow ViewAn NMEA conference unfolds like a charming novel. A good story starts with an inviting setting. This year, the Southwest Marine/Aquatic Educators Association (SWMEA) is hosting our annual conference from July 15-20 and they have chosen a picture-perfect backdrop. We will be aboard the RMS Queen Mary, a retired British ocean liner now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a hotel, museum and event facility.

Similarly, the Introduction to a great read should be appealing and capture the reader’s attention. NMEA18’s Introduction invites us to experience a thrilling evening on the beaches of California. A starry, perhaps moonlit night will open an event called the Grunion Run. Grunion are small silverside fish with, shall we say, interesting behaviors when they make their way onto the beach. Be sure to arrive in time to enjoy this unique activity! If you can’t attend this beach event, we also have an evening kickoff event in the Queen Mary’s Britannia Salon. This elegant salon is situated at the stern of the ship and opens onto a private deck where guests can enjoy the fresh ocean air and panoramic views of Long Beach.

Skimming the Contents, some of the chapters of our story include:

  • Reflect, Blend and Design at our Pre-Conference workshops!
  • Sessions, sessions and more sessions. A few of our many sessions include:
    • Exploring the Deep Ocean with NOAA
    • If You Eat Seafood, You’re Probably Eating Plastic
    • Project Based Learning Marine Science
    • Globally Sourced Interdisciplinary Lessons that Flow from the Mountains to the Ocean
  • NMEA’s Youth Conference rocks! Calling all middle school, high school and college students who are passionate about marine science, education, and conservation
  • Field Trip Fun including Catalina Island, whale watching and the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge

After finishing an unforgettable book, sometimes I want to flip to the first page and start the adventure again. Fortunately, I can look forward to another bestseller by the Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA) at the NMEA2019 conference in New Hampshire!

Queen Mary photo credit:

Tags:  National office  NMEA18 

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NMEA and Maryland Sea Grant: The Perfect Combo

Posted By Jeannette Connors, Thursday, November 2, 2017

If you’re old enough to remember the vintage Reese’s commercial where two passersby bump into each other and say “Hey you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!...Hey you got your peanut butter in my chocolate” and then a voice over says “Two great tastes that taste great together!” you may have reacted the same way I did: with a head-thumping “Of course they go together!” This advertisement popped into my mind when I thought of the way Maryland Sea Grant and the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) enrich and enhance each other like peanut butter and chocolate. Founded just a year apart, the National Marine Educators Association in 1976 and Maryland Sea Grant in 1977, both organizations have histories rich in education, science and public outreach.

Maryland Sea Grant is administered by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Maryland Sea Grant is part of a network of 33 Sea Grant programs around the country and is located a few blocks from the University of Maryland College Park campus.

NMEA is a national organization of members that range from teachers, informal educators, university professors, students, and more from around the world working together to enhance the understanding and safeguarding of our freshwater and marine ecosystems. NMEA has 17 regional chapters that support and promote nationwide initiatives in education and conservation.

So how did these two organizations bump into each other? For many years, NMEA’s National Office was located in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. When NMEA needed a new home in 2012, a bid for proposals was issued and peanut butter and chocolate came together when Maryland Sea Grant became the host of NMEA’s National Office in 2013. What stands out to me during this transition period was the way NMEA arrived at Maryland Sea Grant’s doorstep. UPS plunked down in our reception area dozens of boxes, cartons and containers filled with NMEA history, ready to be unpacked, sifted through, re-filed and re-organized into their new living quarters. Around this time, NMEA updated to a computerized membership database system, so things were hopping at the new National Office.

NMEA National Office staff (J. Adam Frederick and Jeannette Connors)A walk through the hallway of the Maryland Sea Grant office offers an illustration of how seamless the transition was and continues to be.  In our reception area, one of the first things you’ll notice is an area rug with an ocean blue background and schools of fish in the foreground. Continue down the hallway and you’ll see gorgeous bay-themed artwork by local artists, as well as various photos of aquatic plants and sea creatures. You’ll hear conversations about aquaculture, education, and ocean conservation. On an especially busy day, you might hear the sounds of video editing and snippets of interviews with scientists, watermen, teachers, Bay pilots, and video shorts on topics like installing a rain garden and seafood safety technology.

Off to one side of the hallway is the NMEA National office, tucked inside the larger Maryland Sea Grant space. In square feet, the National Office consists of one 10 x 12 office, ½ of another 10 x 12 office and some storage space in College Park and Baltimore. Nevertheless, the small space doesn’t affect NMEA’s ability to continue the work that for decades has been done with dedication and enthusiasm. Just like chocolate and peanut butter are perfect companions, Maryland Sea Grant and NMEA are a sweet combination.

- Jeannette Connors, NMEA National Office Manager

Photo: NMEA National Office staff (J. Adam Frederick and Jeannette Connors) at the NMEA 2017 Annual Conference in Charleston, SC


Tags:  History  National office 

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