New AmeriCorps members join sanctuary

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Kellie Wasikowski, left, and Adam Ziani are seen at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena on Wednesday. They are the newest AmeriCorps members to be hosted by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Wasikowski will be working as the sanctuary’s education specialist, while Ziani will be working as the education coordinator for the Northeast Michigan Stewardship Initiative, housed at the marine sanctury.

ALPENA — Two new AmeriCorps members are settling into their positions at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where they will continue to connect with the community through educational outreach.

Education Specialist Kellie Wasikowski and Education Coordinator Adam Ziani will work at the sanctuary building until November, when their service ends. Both AmeriCorps members earned bachelor’s degrees in environmental science, with Ziani’s degree coming from Eastern Michigan University and Wasikowski’s degree coming from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

During her tenure at the marine sanctuary, Wasikowski will continue to provide education to the community through classroom visits to area schools, the remotely operated vehicle program, and the Marine Advanced Technology Education, or MATE, program.

AmeriCorps members are allowed to work on a special project and Wisikowski wants to provide more opportunities to youth who frequent the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena. She would like to organize a regular club meeting or offer special spring break and summer programming for students there.

“It’s definitely a population that deserves special programming, just because a lot of students may not come here otherwise or have other volunteer opportunities outside of the Boys and Girls Club,” she said.

Originally from Omaha, Neb., Wasikowski said she was always interested in the AmeriCorps program as a post-graduate experience. The possibility she could end up anywhere in the country really appealed to her.

“Here, we’re right by Lake Huron, which is a really cool opportunity for me, coming from a state that is landlocked and doesn’t have such an abundance of recreation opportunities,” she said, adding she’s really looking forward to spring and summer.

Ziani will work with the Northeast Michigan Stewardship Initiative, which is housed in the sanctuary building, and he describes it as a hub of the sanctuary. He will be working with teachers and community partners to promote place-based education stewardship activities for students.

“The main program I will be working with is B-WET,” he said of the Bay Watershed Education and Training program. “It’s basically working with local fisheries and watershed studies.”

He will work with teachers who raise fish in the classroom, provide education to students about shipwrecks through a shipboarding experience on the Lady Michigan, and provide a shoreline experience in which students can participate in habitat surveys and water quality surveys.

Through those programs, Ziani said students are able to learn in an environment that’s different from their classrooms.

“In a classroom, it’s kind of a broader approach to global environment, but when you take kids outside to the community, they can really see the value of the plants and animals and different ecosystems and how they affect them in everyday life,” he said.

Ziani grew up in Ann Arbor and always valued the freshwater resources Michigan has to offer. He said he plans to pursue a career in conservation.

“I believe it’s my obligation or duty to further the research and development and protection of our local environment,” he said.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has hosted AmeriCorps members in conjunction with the Huron Pines AmeriCorps program since 2009, according to Sarah Waters, the marine sanctuary’s education coordinator.

“By hosting a member, we’re able to increase our capacity for education and outreach, especially being able to do more programs than we might otherwise if we didn’t have a member,” she said.

Waters said AmeriCorps members at the marine sanctuary will provide 1,700 hours of service, which is a lot of time on the ground during which they can help with programming for students and learners of all ages. The program also provides opportunities for networking and professional development.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at cnelson@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5687.