John M. Kingsbury Executive Director, Shoals Marine Laboratory

New Hampshire & Maine

Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML) serves as the marine station for both Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire. As SML’s John M. Kingsbury Executive Director, Jennifer Seavey oversees its operations and is a faculty member of both institutions.

Foundation: What makes Shoals unique among marine laboratories?

Dr. Seavey: It is the largest marine field station in the country that focuses on undergraduate education. That makes SML a very welcoming place for students to learn. They’re the players; they’re the ones leading the research, along with Ph.D. scientists. It’s a good place to make mistakes, learn a lot, and then go on to other labs where they can contribute more because they understand it better.

Foundation: What about SML are you most passionate about?

Dr. Seavey: Science education—and, specifically, our immersive field experiences and research experiences for undergrads. Nationally, the science pipeline is underserving the current demand. We need to turn up that faucet. Research has shown that these types of experiences are very powerful in inspiring and retaining students in science. Igniting that passion and helping them to identify as scientists and giving the full picture of what it takes—the joy and the sorrow—are what keep me going.

Foundation: What kinds of research take place at SML?

Dr. Seavey: Everything from intertidal ecology to marine mammal biology, seabirds, toxicology, and parasite biology. It’s all field-based science. One of the most valuable things that field stations like SML offers to the world is long-term data sites with the infrastructure and consistency for monitoring over time. SML started in 1966, and some of our database started at the beginning. The sea surface of the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans, so this is ground zero for looking at ocean changes from climate change. We’re so lucky to have decades of data for everything from algae to marine mammals and birds, water quality, toxicology—all of those things I mentioned. Over decades, the patterns emerge.

Foundation: How has the Lewis Family Foundation benefited your organization?

Dr. Seavey: We’re extremely grateful for a scholarship program that focuses on regional students, from Boston and New Hampshire, high school through college—students who have financial need and who might not otherwise have this kind of opportunity. I’m also grateful to the Lewis Family Foundation for helping us bring more diversity to marine science.

I’ve also participated in Alnoba’s Environmental Leadership awards. This year, they asked me to run a workshop, so I’m supporting that measure as a scientist. I want to run a workshop for advocates suggesting how science can best be used in their important work. My goal is to improve the interdisciplinary nature of environment conservation and management effort. We need many more disciplines at the table to make decisions about what we care about, what action we will take, and how to know if we are achieving success.

Foundation: What’s your vision for the future of SML?

Dr. Seavey: Our founding focus on undergraduates in the 1960s is still critical today. We want to build even stronger programming to support the development of world-class scientists and science-literate citizens. I would really love to widen the science tent to welcome great diversity among our entire community. I think SML can be a great supporter and conduit of this critically important work.

Foundation: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Dr. Seavey: I’m on any kind of water all the time—frozen, salty, fresh. I love kayaking, sailing, skiing—I’m drawn to the outdoors.

Foundation: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Dr. Seavey: There are nine islands in the Isles of Shoals, and one of them—Seavey Island—is named after my ninth great-grandfather. He was a cod fisherman in the 1600s. It’s amazing to think that, almost 400 years later, I’m here in the same place where my dad’s side of the family started. From a personal side, that’s pretty cool!

Tell us a little about yourself. Which do you prefer?

Chocolate or vanilla?

Definitely chocolate—dark chocolate!

Reading a book or seeing a movie?

Reading a book

Going for a hike or sitting by a fire?

Oh, a hike—but then, can I have a fire after the hike? Or a hot tub would be even better!

Talking or listening?

Everybody talks a lot, but I strive to listen.

Dogs or cats?

I have a dog, a golden doodle.

Being interviewed or having a tooth pulled?

Definitely being interviewed. I hate the dentist!