Sanctuary to host alternative break weekend for CMU students

ALPENA – Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Huron Pines AmeriCorps member Abbie Diaz gave a presentation to the Sanctuary Advisory Council about a program idea for students to attend the sanctuary on an alternative break weekend. The weekend would include a group of 12 students who would work on artifact conservation and documentation, public outreach, archival work with the Alpena Public Library, inventory and maintenance and shipwreck and artifact research.

“So far I’ve been assisting with (remotely operated vehicles), tours, and education programs,” Diaz said. “That involvement allowed me to plan a volunteer weekend with Central Michigan University.”

Diaz participated in an alternative break weekend program while she attended college at CMU, and noticed the value in multiple hands working together in a focused environment.

“Twelve students will come here for a weekend and do 15 to 20 hours of service,” Diaz said. “They volunteered for an issue they were passionate about, so they don’t even know they are coming here yet.”

Diaz said when she was involved in the program she was amazed at the work that could be done over the weekend when students were involved with something they were interested in.

“There are two site leaders who work with the group, and that’s the same set up that will be here with us when our group comes,” Diaz said. “We’ve come up with some great ideas for services they can work on.”

An ROV build also is planned for the weekend to show the students what is involved in building and operating an ROV.

The council also heard an update from Cathy Green, sanctuary special projects coordinator, on the mission and programs of the Friends of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and how the Friends group is involved with the mission of the sanctuary.

“The group has enabled us to have the resources to hire our AmeriCorps people, and that’s just one of the benefits of the Friends,” Superintendent Jeff Gray said.

Green said a lot of the initiatives of the Friends have been entertwined into everything involved with the sanctuary and some of its partners.

“We want to get information out to the community through our Friends membership,” Green said. “It’s about reaching out to the community and inviting people to participate in many different ways.”

Boat building, the conservation lab, education and outreach programs, events such as the Maritime Heritage Festival and the ROV competition and financial contributions are just a few of the ways the Friends group encourages the community to get involved and participate in Sanctuary activities.

“We’ve expanded the space in the Sanctuary Store and have a new setup with new merchandise,” Green said. “The funds we generate through the store help us to staff exhibits and keep the doors open.”

Renovations are continuing at the store, and are expected to be mostly completed by the beginning of summer.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.