Executive Director, Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership
Hurricane Island, Maine
Located about twelve miles off the coast of Rockland, Maine, in Penobscot Bay, Hurricane Island integrates science education, applied research, and leadership development in a sustainable environment. Bo Hoppin describes the island’s mission and his vision for its future.
Foundation: Tell me about your organization.
Bo: Hurricane Island is an experiential science and applied research nonprofit that is uniquely suited for students to learn science by generating their own questions and finding their own answers.
We focus on four strategic priorities. First, we integrate science education and research, so when students come to the island, they’re working alongside researchers and investigating their own scientific questions. The marine research we lead centers on kelp and scallop aquaculture. We also have visiting scientists who are studying urchins, lobsters, algae, and ocean plastics.
Our second strategic focus is responding to community-driven research questions. We empower middle and high school students to come up with their own research questions grounded in their local community. Through our aquaculture research, we work with local fishermen to identify strategies to diversify local fisheries while restoring habitat.
Our next strategic priority is to create solutions through a model sustainable island campus. While on the island, students see that all of our electricity is generated by solar power, most of our hot water is generated by solar water-heating systems, and we have gardens on the island that provide an increased amount of food for the galley each year. As we grow, we want our campus to model cutting-edge technologies for reducing carbon emission and living sustainably.
And finally, we want to build leadership capacity. Our goal is for students to come to the island and take the lessons learned engaging with those first three strategic priorities back home to make a difference in their own community.
Foundation: What is it about working with students that draws you?
Bo: In college, I had a pretty unique professor who got me engaged in hands-on science research and investigation of local ecosystems. I was inspired! I really believe that immersive experiential education is what we need to create the next generation of stewards for the environment. When kids come here, they get so profoundly connected to the place and so excited about the discoveries they make on their own, I really believe they will go back home and work to make change in their local communities.
Foundation: How does the Lewis Family Foundation support your organization?
Bo: The Lewis Family Foundation provided a lot of our early support for the start-up phase of Hurricane Island, well before I was here. The Foundation awarded a series of grants that were essential to getting operations up and running. I’m really appreciative for the sound fiscal foundation on which I have landed.
Foundation: What is your vision for the future of Hurricane Island?
Bo: The island becomes a really highly regarded education and research model for sustainable technologies. Because it’s an island, you either have to bring in a lot of fossil fuels to run it, or it has to be self-sufficient. My vision is ten years from now, we have a student who gets so excited about something they see or learn on Hurricane Island, they go home and design a key technology for solving the climate crisis. That would be my dream!
Equally important is for schools and teachers and students to think about education differently—to realize education is something you can really put your hands on and dig into. Hurricane is a place where students ask questions and teachers don’t know the answers. Both learn how to work together to find solutions. That interaction is essential for developing the next generation of scientists.
Finally, on the research side, my vision is the island really helps fishermen to identify new and innovative strategies to diversify their trade.
Foundation: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Bo: Exploring with my wife and kids on the island. We also love to ski in the winter and camp in the summer.
Tell us a little about yourself. Which do you prefer?
Chocolate or vanilla?
Reading a book or seeing a movie?
Seeing a movie
Going for a hike or sitting by a fire?
I like them both, but going for a hike if I had to choose.
Talking or listening?
Dogs or cats?
Being interviewed or having a tooth pulled?
Definitely being interviewed!