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.


(As of 12/14/2023)


Dari Christenson – President (2023-2024)
Julie Taylor – Past President (2023-2024)
Cassie Stymiest – President-Elect (2023-2024)
Tara Hicks-Johnson – Treasurer (2022-2024)
Deb Debiegun – Co-Secretary (2023-2024)
Melissa Luetje – Co-Secretary (2022-2024)


Dari Christenson (2024)
Daryn Clevesy (2025)
Deb Debiegun (2024)
Mike Doherty (2026)
Nell Herrmann (2025)
Patricia Halpin (2026)
Tara Hicks-Johnson (2024)
Melissa Luetje (2025) 
Bill McWeeny (2025)
Lisa Pagano (2026)
Ann Reid (2024)
Ben Segee (2026)
Cassie Stymiest (2024) 
Nicole Sullivan (2026)
Julie Taylor (2025)


Newsletter Editor – Vacant
Web Manager – Cassie Stymiest
Membership Coordinator – Jen Kennedy



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.


Daryn is a native to New Hampshire who is a lover of all things outdoors. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental Conservation and Sustainability from the University of New Hampshire in  2017. Her degree has led her across the world to New Zealand for a semester abroad studying ecology, across the country to Northern California for an internship with the Eldorado National Forest Service, and back again to the seacoast of New Hampshire where she is now working as the Seacoast Science Center’s Manager of Visitor Engagement. Daryn’s passion is teaching learners of all ages about our local waters of the Gulf of Maine, as well as our world’s ocean and all its inhabitants! She strives to enhance visitor’s understanding of the interconnectedness between our personal world and actions with that of the natural world to inspire stewards for the environment. When she is not at the center, you can most likely find Daryn hiking, rock climbing, skiing, biking, exploring, reading, or relaxing with her newly rescued dog Pneuma!

Deb Debiegun, Co-Secretary

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 & Design, 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 in NH and studied Environmental Biology at Plymouth State University. HisImage of Mike Doherty
passion for marine biology came out of a college invertebrate zoology class. He has worked as an informal educator, returned to graduate school, and has chosen to immerse himself in vital research projects related to marine fisheries and aquaculture. While in graduate school at UNH and now as a research project manager, Mike continues to find opportunities to promote education through conferences, publications, and collaborations with education colleagues. He enjoys diving, snorkeling, and swimming and has also been lucky enough to dive in the warm waters off Hawaii, but he does prefer our cooler Gulf of Maine!


Nell is a National Board Certified Teacher with twenty-three years experience in the classroom. She currently teaches middle school science in Blue Hill, Maine and was named Hancock County Teacher of the Year in 2019. In 2017, Nell received the Louis P. Lambert award from the Maine Science Teachers Association. The award is given annually to one K-12 science teacher for inspiring student achievement in a caring, compassionate manner. Nell has also taught middle school science in Eleuthera, Bahamas and in State College, Pennsylvania. Additionally, she was a Learning Enrichment/Gifted Support Specialist at the high school level in Pennsylvania for four years. Experiences include serving as a Nautilus Explorer Science Communication Fellow and traveling to to Palmer Station Antarctica. As a science educator, Nell strives to convince her students that science is exciting and accessible.

Patricia A. Halpin

Patricia Halpin photo from whale watch in New ZealandPatricia earned her Ph.D. in physiology with a focus on marine toxicology. She has taught at UNH in Manchester since 2000 and is a passionate leader of STEM K-12 outreach activities. In addition to teaching animal physiology, biology, and endocrinology she teaches the Secret Lives of Whales. In this course, students learn about whales and the ocean ecosystem while making a positive impact by posting on Instagram #wildcats4whales ways to reduce plastic use. She has volunteered for many different conservation organizations and looks forward to finding new ways to contribute.


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.

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.


Bill is a Science Teacher at the CALVIN Project & Harbor School and has taught marineImage of Bill McWeeny on a vessel in Cape Cod Bay sciences for more than 5 decades, three in Massachusetts and two in Maine. He has extensive experience doing field work in the littoral zone as well as offshore, and has taught marine science camps and courses from Quincy, Massachusetts and Cape Cod to the Bagaduce Estuary in Maine, and from St. John’s Island and Belize to Laguna Bay in California. In college, he worked at the Nahant Marine Laboratories doing cellular research on nudibranchs. He has a particular interest in right whales, and has worked closely with the New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Research Team as a volunteer scientist since 1983. In 2004, he established a group of 7th and 8th grade students (who call themselves the Calvineers) to study right whale issues, meet right whale scientists and make PowerPoints to educate the general public about the plight of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. He is currently teaching a class at the Harbor School in Blue Hill that focuses on Climate Change and the Ocean.

Lisa Pagano

Lisa has her Master’s degree in marine science with a concentration in marine conservation. Lisa PaganoAfter living in New Zealand for five years, she returned to the States and began her public teaching career. She teaches marine biology, oceanography, and biology at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, NH. Lisa resides in Kennebunk with her husband and two mischievous labradors. Lisa is an active environmentalist and a member of a local environmental community action group, The Planeteers of Southern Maine. When not teaching, she enjoys traveling in search of great food and creating pollinator pathways in her community.

Ann Reid

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.

Ben Segee

Ben has a strong passion for both science and education and over 10 years of experience in marine science and education fields, having held positions in multiple aquariums, education research, and public schooling. BenBen Segee image appreciates the challenges and affordances of these different settings. Ben is proud to have harnessed these experiences to create a high quality, educational facility which engages and educates diverse audiences of the unique and complex ecology of the Gulf of Maine at the Oceanarium and Education Center in Bar Harbor. Ben is committed to finding novel ways to unite the interests of groups into a common goal. In his time at the Oceanarium, he collaborated with multiple related facilities around the state, and took a leading role of uniting these organizations under the Maine Aquarists Consortium. He also collaborated with the Downeast Institute to help expand their research into Bar Harbor, as well as finding opportunities for local schools to participate in citizen science around this research.You can also thank Ben for establishing contacts to bring jellyfish exhibits to the Oceanarium and to the Maine State Aquarium.

Cassie Stymiest, President-Elect 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.

Nicole Sullivan

Nicole Sullivan image

Nicole fell in love with wildlife at a very young age. She followed this passion to Unity College where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Captive Wildlife Care and Education. While studying at Unity College, Nicole studied many taxonomic groups of animals and the environmental issues occurring across the globe. This led her to a very hands-on internship at Squam Lake Natural Science Center. During her time at Squam Lake Natural Science Center and Unity College, she worked closely and studied a variety of wildlife and a variety of ecosystems with the purpose of becoming a naturalist. As a public educator, Nicole used program animals during interpretive talks aimed at inspiring future generations through knowledge and discovery. She wrote her own mini-talk presentations as well as larger programs with professional naturalists. In her current job at the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, Nicole actively educates a wide variety of audiences about Gulf of Maine wildlife and inspires them to take action to protect them. During the summer months, Nicole oversees all daily operations of the Blue Ocean Discovery Center on Hampton Beach. Inside, they have a touch tank and interactive exhibits to connect visitors from a wide variety of audiences to native wildlife in the Gulf of Maine. The center’s public admission hours are seasonal, and small school groups visit private programs during the winter months. I also coordinate and facilitate whale educational programs with a 65ft inflatable whale. This gives us a unique opportunity to educate kids about whales inside and out! The third program Nicole participates in is beach cleanups, primarily on Hampton Beach, which includes a citizen science method of collecting data on the debris found on the beach.

Julie Taylor, Past president 

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.