Future Spartan already building MSU network through underwater robotics, science career exploration

Alpena High School student assisting sturgeon science team in capturing video, data in the Black River.

Liz Thomson works with Doug Larson from the lake sturgeon science team at MSU to install underwater cameras in the Black River. Courtesy photo

Liz Thomson works with Doug Larson from the lake sturgeon science team at MSU to install underwater cameras in the Black River. Courtesy photo

High school is a good time to explore career opportunities—an idea that one Alpena High School student has taken to heart. Liz Thomson soon will be a proud student of Michigan State University. However even before attending MSU, she has combined on-the-job career exploration with networking at the college.

This past year (and upcoming summer), Thomson has worked for Michigan Sea Grant and gained experience that cross-connects her passion for underwater robotics with an interest in future science careers. Along the way she has found many opportunities for fun and to add engaging learning, leadership, and career experiences to her resume.

Dr. Kim Scribner and Doug Larson lead a lake sturgeon research team from MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. They are embarking on a new citizen science project to track movement of spawning sturgeon along with other fish species in the Black River (Cheboygan River Watershed). Thomson is contributing to the project.

The MSU sturgeon science team is installing cameras above the water to capture video of the variety of large fish migrating in the Black River during the springtime sturgeon spawning season. Thomson explored underwater video options and also helped install an underwater camera which will be used help to verify species identification in video data collected during this project. Her project reflects a career exploration opportunity supported by the Michigan Sea Grant and a recently funded Great Lakes NOAA B-WET grant supporting meaningful watershed education experiences for youth across northeast Michigan.

Thomson has fostered her expertise in applying underwater technology toward science through her leadership with the Alpena 4-H Underwater Robotics club and involvement with NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s MATE Underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) competition.

She has been part of several underwater robotics teams who have built and successfully competed across the state and nation. She also has been involved in a variety of hands-on Great Lakes and natural resource learning experiences in elementary, middle and high school through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI). The initiative is a regional place-based education network and partnership for which MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant provide leadership.

Photo shows Liz Thomson who is the subject of the story

With this new project, Thomson is able to explore careers in Great Lakes and natural resources, and support research designed to better connect citizens with stewardship of the state-threatened lake sturgeon.

While employed by Michigan Sea Grant, Thomson has supported Great Lakes educational programs in northeast Michigan ranging from fisheries science to youth education projects. “Michigan Sea Grant has given me lots of great connections and networking opportunities from the lake sturgeon project and from the NEMIGLSI network,” Thompson said. “Working with the Sea Grant staff has allowed me to develop my skills with data entry and summarizing evaluations and surveys.”

Beyond this in-the-water project, Thomson has been working with a local Sturgeon for Tomorrow Chapter and educators from the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service to adapt their sturgeon education program for Great Lakes educator audiences. This summer she hopes to pilot some adapted educational activities with teachers – and data collected through this sturgeon citizen science project will be integrated as part of these adapted lessons.

Hiring: Special Projects Outreach Specialist

Event Date: 2/15/2018
End Date: 2/28/2018

Michigan Sea Grant is seeking a fixed-term special projects outreach specialist. Position positing is available: http://careers.msu.edu/cw/en-us/job/498631/specialist-outreachfixed-term

Position Summary

As part of the Michigan Sea Grant College Program, this position has dual responsibilities providing leadership in special projects for facilitating integration and partnership among NOAA, Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab, National Sea Grant Network, and Michigan Sea Grant/Michigan State University about their research, extension, education and other programs; and (2) developing collaborative extension, communications, and outreach programs that draw upon the collaborators’ work and that are directed towards specific Great Lakes stakeholder audiences and/or the general public.

This position will collaborate across collaborators, work with faculty, specialists and educators for advancement of the needs of NOAA, NOAA GLERL, and Sea Grant; designs, implements and evaluates programming based on basic and applied research and the needs of partners; ensures dissemination of science-based information through various methods, including multi-media, personal education and written articles; and serves as an informational resource.

Michigan Sea Grant, a cooperative program of Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, helps to foster economic growth and conserve Michigan’s coastal and Great Lakes resources through education, research, and outreach. Sea Grant Extension educators and specialists are involved in planning, organizing, and implementing university-based educational programs that apply knowledge and understanding gained through research. Sea Grant staff support Great Lakes stakeholders with information and tools to make informed decisions to conserve Michigan’s coastal and Great Lakes resources and enhance coastal communities.

Sea Grant Extension staff serve a variety of stakeholder groups, but no single staff can be an expert in all areas of concern to all potential stakeholders. Therefore, staff are part of a collaborative team within Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University (MSU), specializing in particular areas; and sharing their knowledge and skills with colleagues in other parts of the state, Great Lakes region and nation. 

The person in this position will work collaboratively with the team of Sea Grant, MSU, and NOAA professionals to provide overall leadership on special projects for NOAA GLERL, NSGO, and Michigan Sea Grant/MSU. This person will collaborate with other partners to support activities related to facilitating NOAA, Sea Grant, and Extension integration and partnerships for collaborative research, extension, education, or other programs; and develop collaborative special projects.  

This position is a full-time, end-dated appointment renewable annually based upon successful performance and continued funding.

Required Degree

  • Master’s degree

Minimum Requirements

  • Master’s degree from an accredited institution in a field of study related to freshwater coastal wetlands, fisheries or wildlife ecology, water quality, land use, planning, natural resources, or related field must be earned by date of hire;
  • Demonstrated ability and skill in educational program planning, implementation and evaluation;
  • Proven ability to create and carry-out a project plan from research of initial concept to project completion and follow-up;
  • Other requirements per MSU employment guidelines.

Desired Qualifications

  • 3-years’ experience in Extension program delivery or demonstrated ability and skill in educational program planning, implementation and evaluation (relevant experience acquired within the last 5-years preferred);
  • Demonstrated effectiveness in leadership, facilitation, human relations, and written and oral communications;
  • Proven record of working with State, Federal, and community based organizations and groups;
  • Experience in establishing collaborations and community-based initiatives;
  • Computer skills, including use of word processing, spread sheets, GIS, presentation software and the development of multimedia programs;
  • An understanding of educational program planning and successful experience in proposal development;
  • Demonstrated success in grant writing and experience managing operating budgets;
  • Documented understanding of and commitment to equal opportunity, affirmative action and diversity/pluralism; and
  • Demonstrated ability to work effectively with diverse audiences of all socioeconomic levels and cultural backgrounds.

Required Application Materials

  • Applicants are asked to provide a current resume/CV, cover letter and four (4) professional references that will be contacted by the department if requested.

Special Instructions

  • Review of applications will begin on 2/28/2018 and will continue until filled.


Sea Grant Seeks Proposals for Aquaculture Research

Event Date: 12/15/2017
End Date: 3/30/2018

The NOAA National Sea Grant College Program 2018 Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes National Aquaculture Initiative federal funding opportunity is now open. 

Depending on appropriations, NOAA Sea Grant expects to have available a total of $7,000,000 to $11,500,000 across fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020 as part of the Sea Grant National Aquaculture Initiative (NAI). This federal funding competition is designed to foster the expansion of a sustainable U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes aquaculture sector by addressing one or more of the following priorities:

  • Supporting the development of emerging systems or technologies that will advance aquaculture in the U.S., including projects that will help stimulate aquaculture production by nascent industries.
  • Developing and implementing actionable methods of communicating accurate, science-based messages and information about the benefits and risks of U.S. marine aquaculture to the public. And
  • Increasing the resiliency of aquaculture systems to natural hazards and changing conditions.
Complete proposals are due from eligible parties to Sea Grant programs on March 2, 2018 at 5 p.m. local time. 
Applicants are strongly encouraged to reach out to their Sea Grant Program one to two months prior to the Sea Grant program application deadline to receive guidance regarding proposal development and discuss their proposed project(s). 
Proposals from Sea Grant programs are due in grants.gov by March 30, 2018
Please refer to the FFO for all planning and formal guidance.