GOMMEA is a regional network of educators and scientists, committed to creating connections between science and the community, to better understand the Gulf of Maine.
To connect people to the Gulf of Maine through education and experiences.
An ocean-literate citizenry who appreciates and cares for a healthy Gulf of Maine.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
*as of 10/23/2020
Deb Debiegun – President
Julie Taylor – President Elect
Jen Kennedy – Past President
Tara Hicks-Johnson – Treasurer
Melissa Luetje & Andrea Southworth –
Jessica Antonez (2020-2023)
Emma Carey (2019 – 2022)
Dari Christenson (2020-2023)
Deb Debiegun (2018-2021)
Mike Doherty (2018 – 2021)
Tara Hicks-Johnson (2020 – 2023)
Jennifer Kennedy (2020-2023)
Leia Lowery (2020-2023)
Melissa Luetje (2019 – 2022)
Ann Reid (2018 – 2021)
Andrea Southworth (2019 – 2022)
Cassie Stymiest (2018 – 2021) – Newsletter Editor and Web Manager
Julie Taylor (2019 – 2022)
Emma grew up in the seacoast region of New Hampshire and has always gravitated towards the beach and the wonders of the ocean. She discovered her love for biology in high school and continued to pursue her interest in animals and conservation through college. She graduated with a B.S. in Zoology from the University of New Hampshire and will receive her Master’s Degree in conservation education from Miami University of Ohio in December, 2019. Through her graduate studies, she was lucky enough to travel to Belize, Namibia, and Borneo to learn about local conservation efforts and some of the ways in which community members become stewards for their local wildlife. She started working as a seasonal naturalist at the Seacoast Science Center in 2012 and is now the Program Coordinator. She loves engaging learners in nature, and aims to inspire conservation of our planet through inquiry-based learning.
Dari moved to the NH Sea Coast at a young age. During her high school years, she befriended a local lobsterman who encouraged her to go lobstering with him, at one point in time she considered this as a full-time career. Dari studied recreational management at University of New Hampshire and worked with the NH State Parks. After college she transitioned to working and managing a local sightseeing and whale watching business, she spent over 20 years in this industry. Here she gained valuable experience in educating groups of students in schools and on-board passenger vessels. Fourteen years ago, Dari joined NH Sea Grant and UNH Extension as the volunteer coordinator for the UNH Marine Docent Program. She leads programs in schools as well as inquiry based informal marine education programs. The UNH Marine Docent Program trains volunteers in marine science and provides programs for school aged students and adult community members. Dari now serves as the UNH Marine Docent Program Manager.
Deb Debiegun, President
Deb enjoys networking with other marine education professionals throughout the Gulf of Maine region and with the national chapter. Deb’s professional background includes teaching natural sciences, environmental consulting, and physical oceanography. Deb struggled with whether “to become” a research scientist, engineer, or teacher. She happily balances aspects of each. Primarily motivated by sharing her passion for the interconnectedness of nature and what humans can do to better our relationship with the ocean and nature, she currently finds inspiration from the Maine Environmental Educators Association, through teaching science classes at Maine College of Art, and through volunteering with Friends of Casco Bay. Deb’s “other” time is spent backcountry skiing, backyard composting, raising her children, playing with dogs, reading poetry, hiking, biking, sailing, and enjoying bluegrass music.
Mike grew up here in NH, and studied Environmental Biology at Plymouth State University. He has worked as an informal marine educator for about 4 years, and most recently jumped back into his own learning by pursuing a Master of Science in Marine Biology at UNH. As a new researcher and student, Mike is excited to explore all the new education and outreach opportunities he has at UNH. Mike enjoys diving, snorkeling, and swimming. He has been lucky enough to dive in the warm waters off Hawaii, but he prefers our cooler Gulf of Maine!
TARA HICKS JOHNSON, TREASURER
Tara Hicks Johnson moved to New Hampshire from Honolulu with her husband Paul Johnson and their two kids, Keira who is 12, and Ian, 9. Currently at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, she is the Outreach Specialist, responsible for educational and public outreach programs and events such as Seacoast SeaPerch, Ocean Discovery Day, and various camps and school events. Previously, Tara was the Outreach Specialist for the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she organized the biennial Open House event, handled media relations for the school, and ran the Hawaii Ocean Sciences Bowl, the Aloha Bowl. She also worked for the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto (where she was born and raised). Tara’s BSc is in Geophysics from the University of Western Ontario, and her MS is from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Geology and Geophysics where she studied Meteorites.
Jen Kennedy, past President
Jen grew up in Rochester, NY, but has always loved the water and being outdoors. From an early age, she had a particular interest in whales. After graduating from Cornell, she moved to New England for a whale research internship. This turned into a position working on a whale watch vessel in New Hampshire as a naturalist. Along the way, she also received her MS from UNH. In 2001, she co-founded Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, where she serves as Executive Director. The organization works to protect marine life in the Gulf of Maine through research, education and inspiring action. Jen loves being involved in GOMMEA and being inspired by people from all over northern New England who are passionate about education, research and conservation. Jen lives in Eliot, ME and enjoys hiking, running, gardening and spending time with her family.
Leia Lowery is the Director of Programs and Outreach with the Kennebunkport Climate Initiative and Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. She brings over 20 years of experience in education, curriculum development, and community engagement, specializing in facilitating dynamic educational experiences that create critical thinkers, life-long learners, and productive citizens.
Leia advocates building stronger communities by connecting people through their local landscape and shared history. To her, it’s key to inspiring action and building hope for solutions to the climate crisis.
Leia earned her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Virginia Tech with concentrations in International Development, Women’s Studies and Communications, and a Master’s of Science from Virginia Tech. Leia and her husband Jamie, along with their three children (Marshall, Caroline, and Henry), share a deep love of nature. From working in her garden to hiking to the top of a mountain, Leia enjoys all that the outdoors has to offer.
Melissa Luetje, Co-SECRETARY
Melissa has been a high school science teacher at Kennebunk High School since 2002. She is certified in both physical and life science, has a BA in Geology and an MS in Education. She teaches the Gulf of Maine Field Studies class at her high school that she helped develop in partnership with the University of New England, Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, and the Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI). This 200-level environmental studies class is also taught at UNE and at KHS. Students earn 3 college credits upon completion. This project-based class focuses on the Gulf of Maine bioregion and on local issues related to climate change in the Gulf. She and her class collaborators were awarded with the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment’s Visionary Award in 2019. She has 3 daughters and lives in Freeport along with backyard goats, chickens, and ducks. She and her husband spend their summers boating on Casco Bay and going on geologic adventures along the coast of Maine and Maritime Canada.
Ann is a longtime GOMMEA member and resident of NH. Ann has poured countless volunteer hours into local groups around Great Bay. Ann was the coordinator for the Great Bay Coast Watch (GBCW), in which volunteers monitored 20 sites in Great Bay Estuary for water quality parameters. Ann also volunteered with the UNH Marine Docent Program. In addition to marine stewardship, Ann is involved in community organizations, enjoys travel, and enjoys time with her children and grandchildren.
Andrea Southworth, co-secretary
Andrea has always enjoyed being outside, connecting with nature, breathing, and feeling great. She’s been in environmental education for many years, both as a curriculum-writer for non-profits and as an instructor to learners of all ages. Her own education background is biology, ornithology, horticulture, and entomology and she graduated from USM’s Extended Teacher Education Program. Currently, Andrea is the Ecology Project Manager for Friends of Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where she restores native plant and wildlife habitats. She also teaches natural science classes at Maine College of Art and Southern Maine Community College. Andrea’s personal interests involve plants and gardens; she loves to hike and study the flora and fauna as she walks. She enjoys cooking and eating fresh food. She especially enjoys her role as “the invasive lady” and finds a lot of pleasure in removing invasive plants! She is very fortunate to have a wonderful family and many friends.
Cassie Stymiest, Newsletter Editor and Web Manager
Cassie Stymiest is the Executive Director of Educational Passages, a nonprofit that started in Maine and connects students around the world to the ocean and each other. Over the last decade, Cassie has worked with scientists, students, and fishermen to deploy ocean monitoring systems. Today, her primary focus is empowering students to build, launch, track, and recover miniature sailboats with GPS trackers that sail the ocean currents and wind around the globe. This program builds confidence and STEAM skills, and empowers the next generation of maritime professionals. She’s Past Chair of the New England Ocean Science Education Collaborative (NEOSEC), and was previously the Program Manager for NERACOOS. She also loves to craft and spend time with friends and family.
Julie Taylor, president-elect
Julie Taylor has been working in the education field, both classroom instruction and interpretive naturalist work, for over fifteen years. Originally from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, she came to Bar Harbor, Maine in 2003 to study at the College of the Atlantic. She earned her B. A. in Human Ecology and her studies intertwined marine sciences and education. Julianne’s senior project examined the potential effects ocean currents have on humpback whale distribution, site fidelity, and residency in the Gulf of Maine. Her study utilized data collected on whale watch vessels and compared three feeding grounds: Mount Desert Rock, Schoodic Ridges, and Jeffreys Ledge. Julie has assisted in marine mammal research and education outreach programs with organizations such as Allied Whale, Blue Ocean Society, and EcoHealth Alliance. In 2010/2011, she worked as a right whale aerial observer off the coast of Georgia and returned to Maine to teach in public schools. Julie worked as education coordinator for the Explore Outdoors! program, which is a collaborative project between three local environmental organizations including Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Downeast Audubon, and Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust. Julie is currently the lead naturalist at the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, where she has worked as a guide and educator for over 12 years.