Earlier this year, I accepted the position of Executive Director of the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center. I can never hope to fill Kelley’s shoes, but I do hope to regrow Phillips Wharf into an organization that she would be proud of.
Some of you already know me, having come to my Sip & Socialize talk on blue crabs in February of 2020 or having worked with me through the Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters program. I was initially hired at Phillips Wharf as an Americorps Service Member to coordinate the Fishmobile program. Unfortunately, 5 weeks after I started, we began working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This required a major shift in what Phillips Wharf was doing; we closed to the public, canceled all in person programming, and created a virtual Fishmobile program for 4th graders in Talbot County. It was definitely a difficult learning experience but I appreciated the opportunity to problem solve, to learn more about Phillips Wharf, and to actively participate in our conservation work as I eventually took over our oyster restoration program.
In 2010, I worked as an Educator aboard the Skipjack Sigsbee. Here, I’m teaching a station on blue crabs to Baltimore area students.
I first met Kelley when I worked for the Living Classrooms Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland. In the summers, we would take students on 9 day trips around the Chesapeake Bay aboard the Skipjack Sigsbee. These trips included a stop in Tilghman to visit the original Phillips Wharf Environmental Center in Kelley’s backyard.
It was during my time with Living Classrooms that I fell in love with hands-on learning. I realize now that this method of teaching was used in all of my memorable educational experiences and I want to be a part of this for other students. There is something magical about watching students make connections between their experiences and the concepts they’ve learned in the classroom or from a textbook.
Unfortunately, this type of work has not been happening for almost two years, since we put our in-person educational programming on hold in early 2020. However, we are preparing to reinstate this programming in 2022, starting with the Fishmobile. While we are excited to be back, the next few years will be challenging as we work to learn what schools and other organizations need in terms of programming and what the best practices are to keep everyone involved safe and healthy, all while trying to keep the nonprofit financially solvent in a world that has changed since the last time our doors were open.
I’m not going to lie, it’s been a rough 24 months for this nonprofit. The loss of our founder and Executive Director Emerita, Kelley Phillips Cox, in May of 2021 was heartbreaking on top of all the other setbacks that we have suffered. But we are still here and we are moving forward.
Our Board of Directors has been hard at work on a new location. We have signed a lease on a facility in the future home of Easton Point Park in Easton, Maryland and we are working to get it ready to open to the public. In April, 2022 we will begin running the Fishmobile for the first time since 2019. Eventually, we intend to offer additional educational programs in our new location for all age groups. This will include adult education programs on topics in ecology and sustainable living, as well as programs for school-aged children. Our goal is to provide programs that support our community so if you have time, please let us know what you’d like to see us offer by completing our community survey using this link: https://bit.ly/3hehoz9.
My plan for Phillips Wharf is to rebuild slowly in a way that is manageable and sustainable. We will start with the Fishmobile and slowly add in additional programs. It is also my goal to maintain our work with oyster restoration in the form of an updated Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters program, which has continued in a limited format throughout the pandemic. All of this will be done following a business plan we are working on with the Small Business Development Program at Salisbury University to ensure that our programs and future growth will be sustainable. However, we can’t do this without you.
If you have time, please fill out the survey letting us know what kind of programs you want to see. If you have the means, please donate to help us keep the lights on until we begin running programs later this year or sign up to volunteer with us. If you own or are involved with a business that is looking for advertising opportunities, consider our aquarium tank sponsorship program. When we are offering programs again, please engage with them by attending our programs or booking the Fishmobile. You can also engage with us online by signing up for our e-newsletter, following us on Facebook and Instagram, or directing your AmazonSmile donations to the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center. There are so many ways to get involved with us and we look forward to reconnecting with you.
Oyster cages getting loaded for delivery to volunteer growers in October, 2021. Throughout the pandemic, the Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters program has continued to support oyster restoration.
Thank you so much for your support for the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center. I look forward to continuing to grow our community of Chesapeake Bay stewards in the years to come.
Kristen Lycett, Ph.D.
Phillips Wharf Environmental Center