New Specialists Help In “Bringing Science to the Shore” for NY’s Coastal Communities

Ithaca and Stony Brook, NY, July 6, 2021 — Three new extension specialists have joined in New York Sea Grant (NYSG)’s mission of “Bringing Science to the Shore” statewide as part of the cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY). 

NYSG extension specialists work with faculty and researchers at Cornell University, SUNY colleges and universities, and other academic institutes and agency partners in New York State to develop and provide integrated research, science, education, and extension services that address timely and high priority challenges and opportunities related to New York’s freshwater and marine environments, economies, and communities. 
"New York Sea Grant’s extension supports diverse coastal stakeholders across the State – along two Great Lakes, and the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers, the Hudson River Estuary, the Atlantic Ocean, and Long Island Sound," said New York Sea Grant Director Becky Shuford. "Our extension specialists are highly skilled and adept in their areas of expertise and translate stakeholder-driven coastal-related research and science for practical use by the communities they support and inspire stewardship of our State’s coastal environment and resources. New York Sea Grant’s specialists are vital members of their stakeholder communities."

Based on campus in Ithaca, Cornell University Cooperative Extension Assistant Director Katherine Bunting-Howarth, Ph.D., J.D., is the Associate Director of New York Sea Grant. "New York Sea Grant resources are designed to make the latest science-based information available to help New York’s waterfront communities and citizens to strengthen coastal economies and quality of life," said Bunting-Howarth. "Through a broad scope of programming, New York Sea Grant extension specialists bring the best expertise to bear on local issues and serve on local, state, national and international advisory committees themselves. Assistance is provided through workshops, publications, one-on-one assistance, the adept use of remote learning technology, and award-winning social media campaigns."

New York Sea Grant Great Lakes Outreach Coordinator Megan Kocher.

Megan Kocher: Great Lakes Outreach Coordinator

Megan Kocher is the Great Lakes Outreach Coordinator for New York Sea Grant. She provides outreach and communication support for various NYSG activities and for projects funded through the New York’s Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program. Megan maintains the New York Invasive Species (NYIS) Clearinghouse website, as well as New York’s Great Lakes Ecosystem Education Exchange (GLEEE) and New York’s Great Lakes web pages. Megan also assists other extension staff with project implementation and serves as the NYSG representative for the Western New York PRISM Steering Committee.

"The enthusiasm of everyone on the Sea Grant team makes it easy to be excited for all of my upcoming work," noted Kocher. "But I’m especially looking forward to creating easily accessible and virtual forms of outreach that will showcase the success of wonderful and important projects going on in and around the Lower Great Lakes." 

Prior to joining NYSG, Megan worked as a biological science technician at the Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.

Left and lower right: New York Sea Grant Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Specialist Stacy Furgal conducting research on Lake Ontario; Credit: USGS.; upper right: juvenile lake sturgeon; Credit: NYSG/Jesse Lepak.

Stacy Furgal: NYSG Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Health Specialist 

Among Stacy Furgal’s first publications as NYSG’s Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Health Specialist are a Great Lakes aquatic food web poster and a curriculum on the lake sturgeon, one of the largest and longest-living native fish species in the Great Lakes — see NYSG's Great Lakes Fisheries and Lake Sturgeon resource sites.

"This new curriculum featuring the charismatic ‘living fossil’ lake sturgeon is a springboard into the world of science, environmental stewardship, and STEM-based careers. It also highlights fisheries as an important contributor to the economic health of New York State," noted Furgal, whose experience includes time with NYSG, the New York State DEC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. 

Furgal presented her field research in a presentation on “Lake Trout in Lake Ontario: Searching for the secret to spawning success” at the February 2020 American Fisheries Society New York Chapter meeting.

New York Sea Grant Coastal Literacy Specialist Nate Drag with components of the new NYSG Lake Sturgeon Intermediate Curriculum. Credit: NY Sea Grant.

Nate Drag: NYSG Coastal Literacy Specialist

Nate Drag’s early work as NYSG’s Great Lakes Coastal Literacy Specialist has involved development of curricula focused on marine debris and plastic pollution in NY’s Great Lakes; an environmentally-themed reading and activity list; and an intermediate grade-level treatise on the lake sturgeon. 

"The new curricula, associated activities, and collateral materials are designed to connect educators, students, and the public to the unique environmental, ecological, cultural, historic, economic, and recreational resources of the Great Lakes region," said Drag.

Drag is coordinating “teach-the-teacher” training workshops and New York’s Great Lakes Ecosystem Education Exchange, administered in partnership with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. He also serves as Associate Director of the Great Lakes Program at the University of Buffalo. Prior to joining NYSG, Nate Drag was the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ first New York staff person.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

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