Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship announces 2015 Fellowship Awards


The Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship has announced 10 Vision Fellowship Awards for 2015. According to a press release, this year’s applicants all impressed the selection committee with their passion for and vision in many of the fellowship’s areas of interest, all of which emphasize Island sustainability. The 2015 Fellows join the Vision Fellowship community of 44 past and current fellows, and all of their mentors and collaborators.

The 2015 Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowships have been awarded to:

Wesley Brighton, commercial fisherman and playwright, and Jeremy Mayhew, filmmaker, animation designer, director, and multimedia artist, who will create a film documenting the world of commercial fishing on the Vineyard and the importance of this community to the Island’s identity and heritage. By tracing the fishing industry’s history, explaining its present struggles, and openly discussing the challenges facing its future survival, Wesley and Jeremy hope to ensure, with the help of the greater Island community, its survival. They will collaborate with the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

Kendra Buresch, biologist, will work to create a new conservation education program that will inspire and motivate children to become directly involved in protecting the natural landscape of Martha’s Vineyard. The main goals of the program are to develop a science-based curriculum that teaches students about Martha’s Vineyard ecology and to help students create habitat patches at the Island’s elementary and middle schools that will act as steppingstones for wildlife. The project is a collaborative education initiative, with an advisory committee comprised of the Nature Conservancy, Polly Hill Arboretum, Biodiversity Works, and Island Grown Schools.

Lee Faraca, a senior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, will pursue an undergraduate degree in environmental engineering. Lee will work with the Avant Gardener, a local gardening business that strives to utilize organic methods and materials, whose plantings have been recognized by the Vineyard Conservation Society as being “chemical-free gardens.” Lee will focus on the environmental impact of the gardens installed and/or maintained by the Avant Gardener, and will work to ensure that the gardens are all environmentally friendly, have limited runoff, and have the least impact on fragile ecosystems.

Eli Hanschka, a senior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, will study environmental science, renewable energy, and engineering at Colby College after engaging in an Island-based internship this summer, through which he will explore alternative and renewable energy solutions with a focus on climate change. Among other accomplishments, Eli designed and built a buoy that used the power of small waves to create electricity and illuminate LED lights, which won the grand prize at the MVRHS science fair and second place at the regional competition, thereby earning him a place at the state science fair at MIT.

Erin Hickey, a senior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, will pursue an undergraduate degree in biochemistry. This summer, Erin will intern with Biodiversity Works, where she will develop an independent research project that tests the efficacy of chick shelters in reducing predation of piping plover chicks on beaches where there is not adequate dune grass or other cover for them to use in hiding from hunting crows and gulls. Among other accomplishments, Erin created an afterschool math program for third-grade girls at the Edgartown School who were preparing for their first mathematics MCAS.

Luanne Johnson and Liz Baldwin, wildlife biologists and director and assistant director of Biodiversity Works, will study northern long-eared bat (NLEB) distribution, roosting, and migration behavior on Martha’s Vineyard. This research will gather life history information for NLEBs specific to Vineyard habitats that will help us protect our population of these rare bats and recover the species within the Northeast. Martha’s Vineyard and Long Island may have the only remaining breeding populations of NLEBs in the Northeast, due to widespread white-nose syndrome causing mass mortalities at winter hibernation sites. Luanne and Liz are collaborating with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the USGS Cooperative Research Unit at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Virginia Tech, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, local conservation nonprofits, and private landowners.

Cristina LaRue, third grade teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, will pursue a Master of Science in Ecological Teaching and Learning at Lesley University. This course of study combines Cristina’s two passions, the environment and teaching, and will give her the opportunity to deepen her understanding of ecological and sustainable practices and how she can integrate them across content areas in the elementary classroom. Cristina also will work during the summers to design, implement, and evaluate a natural history docent-training program at Massachusetts Audubon’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary that will engage a broad spectrum of the Island community in learning about Martha’s Vineyard’s ecology and environment, connecting generations of Islanders through nature.

Dana Munn, physics teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, will continue his professional development in the areas of alternative and renewable energy and education, with a secondary focus on conservation and sustainable architecture/built environment. Dana has been passionate about energy education for many years, and has introduced his students to the study of renewable energy. He will concentrate his professional-development activities on photovoltaic systems, and will use the information gained to develop solar curriculum units, laboratory activities, and projects for the Principles of Green Engineering course at MVRHS. Dana will share his curriculum materials and knowledge with other teachers.

Matthew Thibert, owner and head technician of Vineyard Alternative Auto in Vineyard Haven, will create a waste vegetable-oil (WVO) cooperative and farm-equipment conversion program. The cooperative will be a member-controlled, sustainable, and cost-effective way to decrease fossil-fuel usage while ensuring that the farmers’ daily activities continue with as little disruption or additional work as possible. Matthew has converted numerous vehicles to WVO, including his Ford F250, which has logged more than 15,000 trouble-free miles. WVO alleviates the need for fossil fuels and removes a product from the waste stream. Matthew will work collaboratively with Morning Glory Farm and Mermaid Farm, and anticipates the creation of a high-functioning model that will deliver significant fuel savings to farmers. Matthew hopes this project will spark a larger discussion of the long-term viability of our food system and its current dependence on fossil fuels.

Saskia Vanderhoop, founder and director of Sassafras Earth Education in Aquinnah, will deepen her practice and studies of Nature Connection Mentoring, a holistic approach to learning and living, derived from cultural anthropological research and cross-cultural comparison of indigenous and ancient ways of passing knowledge on to the next generation. Saskia will focus her practice and studies on the subtopic of Bird Language, a new initiative of the 8 Shields Institute, intended to awaken deep nature connection through understanding the bird communication patterns in a landscape. For nearly 10 years, Saskia has led year-round nature programs for adults and children, women’s talking circles, and summer day camps, and has held many community events through Sassafras Earth Education.

The Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship fosters communication and collaboration among the fellows, their mentors, and the sponsoring organizations. The Vision Fellowship’s areas of interest include affordable housing; alternative and renewable energy; education, including environmental education; health care, including mental health; social services and elder services; Island cultures; and sustainable agriculture.

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