Leadership Perspectives

A Watershed Year

By Don Perkins, GMRI President

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2011 was really a watershed year for GMRI. We entered our lab seven years ago with a small staff of 15 and a modest budget of about two and a quarter million dollars a year. By 2011 we had grown to a full staff of 60 and a budget of eight and a half million dollars and at that point in time we had all of the staff capability, all of the expertise that we had hoped to develop on the scientific side, on the education side, and on the community side.

And, beyond simply assembling an extraordinary group of scientists from all over the world, an education staff that's known nationally for their insight into how students learn science, and the technology to enable that, and our community staff who's deeply embedded in the coastal community and are very savvy about how to support change in the fishing domain and amongst other new uses of the marine environment. We realize that we actually have something very unique and it isn't simply three domains of expertise: it's a continuum of understanding from oceanographic research to how fish behave to how fishing gear can be used to catch fish selectively and sustainably to how fishing vessels operate and can improve their operations to how markets work onshore to how fish auctions work to how the supply chain works and what they need from the fishing industry to how fishery management can be changed with innovative changes in the property rights, how the right to fish is owned, how consumers buy sustainably harvested fish, how grocery chains market those fish and how restaurants present those fish, so all of a sudden we realize we have this insight across an entire supply chain.

And similarly on the education side, we understand how teachers are trained, we understand how kids use technology, we're deeply involved in middle school, we're cooperating with other science educators and so we have this insight into how and how students can become science literate and ultimately provide an extraordinarily capable workforce.

The other thing that happened in 2011 is we really got to the point where we needed to hire a chief operating officer to split my position into one position that's totally focused on how to maximize the impact of our work in coastal communities and the educational arena and on the other hand to free me up for long-term strategy and fundraising.

We hired Ellen Grant who has a remarkable background to bring to GMRI to provide that operational oversight. She joined us in late September and has been an extraordinary addition to GMRI.

When I look out into the future what excites me is the following: the Gulf of Maine has really gotten control of overfishing in the last decade by huge sacrifice through the fishing industry and I think this region has the opportunity to define itself globally as one of the preeminent sources of sustainably harvested, very high quality fish. And, the second thing is that because Maine is a small place we have an unusual opportunity to improve the quality of our education system and really focus on science literacy and our aspiration is to see Maine emerge as one of the nation's most science literate states. That's my hope for the future and what GMRI might contribute to it over the next decade.

Don Perkins, President, GMRI

Don Perkins has been GMRI's President/CEO since 1995. Don works with GMRI's staff, board, and external partners to drive GMRI's evolution as a strategic science, education, community institution that serves the Gulf of Maine bioregion and to scale GMRI's impact beyond the region. Don is dedicated to building creative, strategic organizations, traditional or virtual, that contribute to solving intractable problems and creating new opportunities in marine conservation, science literacy, and common property governance and management. He currently serves on the board of the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation and recently co-chaired the Governor's Ocean Energy Task Force. He was co-founder of Friends of Casco Bay and the Maine Marine Research Coalition. Reflecting his broader interest in governance, Don currently serves on the board of MMG Insurance and the advisory board of Tilson Technology Management. Don was born in Waterville, Maine and has lived in a variety of Maine's coastal and inland communities (as well as in Israel and Brazil).

Success through Collaboration

By Ellen Grant, GMRI Chief Operating Officer

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I arrived just about a year ago, September of 2011. And was really drawn to GMRI because of its critical role in the Gulf of Maine, which is so significant to the region and the globe in terms of its biodiversity and being one of the twelve most abundant bioregions in the world.

The approach of GMRI is what really attracted me. The real balance of attention between the economy and the ecological sustainability of the bioregion and being able to balance needs in both of those areas to me is the only way to achieve sustainability.

One of the things that really hasstruck me in my first year at GMRI—and it struck me when I was interviewing for the position—was the incredible quality of the staff. We have an amazing group here. Very, very committed to the work they're doing—the work we're doing. Really talented and creative staff from lots of different backgrounds and experiences. It's what really makes this organization so successful.

When I think about 2011 I think that one of the must exciting things was the full launch of the Sustainable Seafood program and the Responsibly Harvested brand, and the collaboration between the community and research departments to really enable that program to be so well received in the marketplace and to ultimately achieve its goals towards sustainable seafood in the Gulf of Maine.

In the education arena, our LabVenture! program continued to support and attract thousands of middle schoolers in the State of Maine for really an exciting experience of actually being a scientist while the kids are at the lab. It's just really clear to me that we do provide a really unique opporunity for kids to roll their sleeves up, do the kinds of science that our actual researches are doing here at GMRI. And to really get insights on what it is that science is about and how they can potentially be making contributions to it.

So I'm really excited about the ways that we will continue to leverage the unique assets that we have here at GMRI. The fact that we have this very strong team of marine researchers, the community department working really efffectively with stakeholders, especially in fisheres, and our education team. I think that we do have this unique combination.

The fact that we have all this working happening in the same organization with a real comiitment to working across departments, collaborating across departments, and ultimately collaborating with a whole lot of stakeholders and partners out in the various communities that we work. It's what has gotten GMRI this far, and its very much, part of what has attracted me to the organization and will be key to our success going forward.

Ellen Grant, Chief Operating Officer, GMRI

Ellen Grant joined GMRI in 2011 as Chief Operating Officer, after a varied career in nonprofit management. She most recently worked for The Nature Conservancy in Micronesia and the Caribbean, supporting local NGO partners in organizational capacity building. Prior to her international work, she led a statewide organization in Maine devoted to increasing cross sector collaborative leadership capacity through training and consulting. As executive director for ten years, she honed her skills in designing and facilitating large scale, multi-stakeholder processes, and participated in a variety of collaborative projects related to education, health care, economic development and climate change.