Staff

  • Fred Sitkins

    Executive Director

    Fred Sitkins became our organization’s second executive director in 2013, but he was involved with ISEA during its infancy in the ‘90s. Before we had a ship of our own, we chartered the tall ship Malabar, which Fred helped crew! After receiving his Bachelor of Elementary Education and Masters of Educational Administration, Fred went on to become a teacher and later the principal at Boyne City Elementary. It isn’t often that someone has the opportunity to see his or her life come full circle, and Fred is excited to be at the helm of ISEA after it inspired him so early in life.

    Outside of running the organization, Fred enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons playing hockey, fishing, sailing, and mountain biking.

  • Ben Hale

    Inland Seas Captain

    Ben was one of our early interns in 1997. After receiving his Bachelor of Zoology, he helped crew and sail tall ships in not only our Great Lakes, but in the oceans as well. Ultimately, Ben came back to join our staff in 2012 because he believes in our mission of protecting the Great Lakes through education.

    After a long day of captaining our schooner Inland Seas, Ben goes home to his wife and son (a practical carbon-copy of Ben, we’re sure!) and daughter to relax and play the fiddle.

  • Chelsea Nester

    Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative Coordinator

    Chelsea loves being immersed in her community and making long-term connections for the greatest good for people and place.  These loves make this a great job for her.  She connects teachers with community resources and the tools to implement student-led place-based projects across educational disciplines. Place-Based Stewardship Education (PBSE)

    After a day of connecting with teachers and diving deep into place based stewardship education, Chelsea can be found following animal trails, smelling cottonwood buds or cooking with her two sons.  

  • Stephanie Rustem

    Office Manager and Programs Coordinator
    Stephanie joined the ISEA team in 2018. She grew up in Mid-Michigan and received both her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and Master of Science degree in Community, Agriculture, Recreation, and Resource Studies from Michigan State University. She developed her love for the outdoors at a young age while picking wild blackberries in her parents’ backyard, fishing Michigan’s inland and Great Lakes, and camping in Northern Michigan.
    In her spare time, Stephanie still enjoys her childhood hobbies of hiking, fishing, and camping with her boyfriend and pup, and regularly exercises her creative muscle with weekend craft sessions.
  • Jillian Votava

    Great Lakes Educator

    Jillian first joined ISEA in 2017 as an education intern. She is a Great Lakes native from Milwaukee, WI and is the product of urban place-based environmental education programs. A memorable week-long trip to the Bahamas aboard the S/V Dennis Sullivan in high school led her to the physical sciences, a BS in geology, and eventually, a Master’s degree in geology from the Large Lakes Observatory in Duluth, MN. She is excited as ISEA’s Great Lakes Educator to share with anyone who will listen to the joy of what makes large lakes special features on the earth.

    When not discussing geological processes or the limits of human exploration with colleagues and students, you can find Jillian with her husband grooving around town or up in the air, quite literally. She recently spent the last few years learning the joy of circus arts in Madison, WI with training in trapeze, aerial silks, stilt-dancing, and acrobatics, as well as clowning and juggling.

  • Eileen Wehr

    Office Assistant

    Eileen has an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Northwestern Michigan College. She has experience as a Business Assistant in medical and dental offices. When returning to Northern Michigan from Oklahoma she was drawn to Inland Seas Education Association because of her love of the beautiful blue water of Lake Michigan and her interest in preserving the Great Lakes.

    When she is not working, Eileen enjoys spending time with her family in Suttons Bay and Traverse City. She is blessed to be the mother of 3 children and 7 grandchildren. Her favorite pastime is walking with her husband along the bay and the TART Trail.

  • Jeanie Williams

    Lead Scientist and Education Coordinator

    Jeanie was drawn to our team because she wanted to blend scientific research with education (so she’s in the perfect spot—just look at her job title!). She holds a BA in biology and an MS in secondary education and environmental science. She’s guided whale watches in the Bay of Fundy, taught biology, sustainability, and ecology at the Community College of Vermont, and participated in several research endeavors.

    After a day of devoting her time to our organization, Jeanie can be found looking for wildflowers, stand-up paddle boarding, drawing, or swimming.

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