Sea Grant 50th Anniversary: Celebrating the work of our Extension educators

Mary Bohling's passion for paddling has helped bring water trails to Detroit.

Sea Grant 50th Anniversary: Celebrating the work of our Extension educators

In 2016, the National Sea Grant College Program celebrates 50 years of putting science to work for America’s coastal communities.

Sea Grant is a federal-state partnership that turns research into action by supporting science-based, environmentally sustainable practices that ensure coastal communities remain engines of economic growth in a rapidly changing world. There are 33 programs across the country working to help build and grow innovative businesses along America’s oceans and Great Lakes, protect against environmental destruction and natural disasters, and train the next generation of leaders.

Established in 1969, Michigan Sea Grant, is a collaboration between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. We offer research, education and community outreach on topics such as aquatic invasive species, coastal development, commercial and sports fishing, and environmental stewardship for youth. 

Our MSU Extension educators live and work in coastal communities around Michigan. We celebrate their hard work and take this opportunity to introduce each of them during this anniversary year.

Mary Bohling is located in Southgate, Michigan, and serves Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Wayne counties. She has been an extension educator for 10 years. Mary earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, environmental studies and anthropology and a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Michigan.

Mary is passionate about paddling and peddling (kayaks and bikes, that is). She works with coastal communities, nonprofit groups and businesses in a four-county district along the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Detroit River and western Lake Erie applying science-based knowledge to address Great Lakes issues, including economic development, habitat restoration, coastal tourism initiatives, and greenway/water trail development.

In addition, Mary is the chair of the Michigan Statewide Public Advisory Council, chair of the Michigan Trails Advisory Council Non-Motorized Advisory Workgroup Water Trail Subcommittee, co-chair of the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative, and co-founder and board member of the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance.

What made you decide to be an extension educator?

Prior to coming to Michigan Sea Grant, I worked for a utility company that routinely partnered with MSG on habitat restoration and other environmental projects in southeast Michigan. As a project partner, I was able to see firsthand how impactful the Sea Grant extension educators can be. When the position opened up I jumped at the chance to transition to extension.

Do you have any advice for students who might want to pursue a career with an environmental focus?

Find someone who works in the area you are interested in and see if you can job shadow them. The job is often different than what you envision. Do it early so you can change focus if it’s not what you expected. When I was in my last semester of community college, I did an internship as a state park ranger because I thought that’s what I wanted to do. I found out that rangers don’t spend all of their time outdoors, enjoying the natural resources that they are working to protect. They sometimes have to do reports, clean bathrooms and other facilities, repair equipment and other administrative tasks. I was still interested but it was good to learn more about what I’d be getting into if I pursued that career path.

If you could get people to follow just one piece of conservation advice what would it be?

Get involved! There are so many grassroots environmental organizations that rely on volunteers to accomplish their missions. Find one that speaks to your environmental passion, roll up your sleeves and make a difference.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Related Articles