Spotlight On: Steve Evert
Galloway, N.J. – Steve Evert, director of the Marine Field Station (MFS), was recently appointed president-elect for the Northeastern Association of Marine and Great Lakes Laboratories (NEAMGLL). NEAMGLL is one of three regional sections of the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML). This leadership role reflects the passion he has not only for his field of expertise, but the impact experiential learning at the MFS has on Stockton students. Evert, who began his career at Stockton over 27 years ago, shares some insights about his time here at Stockton and his thoughts on this new role.
How long have you been a part of Stockton?
I began running the MFS in 1996, three years after its initial opening. At that time, it was almost exclusively an educational facility with very few external funding programs, and the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NAMS) teaching programs at the MFS were supported by 1.75 people (me being the one!). The growth of full-time students in the Marine Science program and the use of the MFS by other NAMS programs led to the need for additional in-house renovations to space and eventually added staff. By 2009 the facilities had modest upgrades, and the supported programs were rapidly increasing in scope and complexity.
Field stations and marine laboratories play a critical role in science education by enhancing the synergies between research and education. Stockton is very fortunate to have the Port Republic site located within a National Estuarine Research Reserve and only 15-30 minutes from our campuses. The location allows us to offer a unique teaching program that provides students with consistent field experience throughout their time with us (versus condensed experiences at remote field facilities).
What do you love most about your role as director of the Marine Field Station?
Preparing students for their futures and exposing them to marine science field work with an emphasis on the vocational aspects of how to get things done in the field and aboard a research vessel safely and efficiently. This cannot be taught in a lecture hall. Hands-on practical experience with an emphasis on safety is what employers seek today. This approach is also the primary attraction and recruitment tool for our programs – we provide our undergraduates with field and high-level instrumentation experience often reserved for advanced studies.
Also, just being a part of the growth of the Institution, NAMS and this facility has been very rewarding. When I started here, the job was to keep the boats running and the students and faculty safe on the water. Today the MFS supports, on average, one million dollars’ worth of externally funded research programs each year. These include habitat monitoring and restoration programs, coastal processes and sediment transport studies, marine debris removal programs, marine mammal studies and several programs in hydrography, including shipwreck and artificial reef mapping for ecological succession studies related to wind energy development off our coast.
The faculty-led research programs supported by the MFS engage our students and provide the research and field experience they need to move on after Stockton. These projects and a true experiential learning program are simply not possible without the facilities, resources and support staff of a marine field station. Our staff is incredibly talented in a very niche area that spans both science education and marine operations support (logistics, vessel captaining, at-sea safety and more).
When did you learn you were appointed the president-elect for the Northeastern Association of Marine and Great Lakes Laboratories (NEAMGLL)?
I was asked if I would consider the position in the Fall of 2022, and in these types of organizations, honestly, it is generally a passing of the torch to a willing and engaged member. I am certainly appreciative that my colleagues in NEAMGLL view my input and experience as a lab director as valuable enough to take a leadership role in the organization.
How long is the term for this role?
I will serve as president-elect for the next two years, with a colleague from the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Large Lakes Observatory leading the charge as president. I will then serve as president from 2025-26.
Can you talk a little bit about why this is significant and how it relates back to your work here at Stockton and the Marine Field Station?
Field stations and marine laboratories play a critical role in science education by enhancing the synergies between research and education. These often-remote facilities provide the geographical access, physical resources, and logistical and staff support that are central to the delivery of any of the natural sciences where data collection and observation are required. Stockton is very fortunate to have the Port Republic site located within a National Estuarine Research Reserve and only 15-30 minutes from our campuses. The location allows us to offer a unique teaching program that provides students with consistent field experience throughout their time with us (versus condensed experiences at remote field facilities). NAML and NEAMGLL seek to provide a forum for resolving problems common to non-profit marine laboratories, encourage the wise use and conservation of marine and coastal resources and promote safe working environments with an emphasis on providing support for increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the marine sciences. Stockton’s science programs and this facility also embrace these principles and will benefit from our association and networking with our partner labs across the United States.
What do you hope to take away from this experience? What do you hope to bring back to Stockton?
I believe the networking and collaboration with other marine and Great Lakes laboratories will provide ideas and concepts for program advancements here at Stockton, including models for internships, shared resources, funding mechanisms and increasing DEI at our field locations. NEAMGLL recently launched a student support program that provides stipends for students who want to engage in studies at other member laboratories or attend scientific conferences. I am hopeful that Stockton students will take advantage of this program and that we can increase visiting researcher use of our facility by welcoming students from partner labs. These types of opportunities often open doors for students and expose them to new areas of this incredibly multidisciplinary field.
Reported by Mandee McCullough
Photo by Susan Allen