Fred Sitkins

Executive Director (231) 271-3077 ext. 101

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.

Izzy Cooper

Program Coordinator (231) 271-3077 ext. 102
Izzy joined the ISEA team in 2021. Born and raised in Traverse City, Izzy has a deeply seated passion for the Great Lakes and is thrilled to be part of a community that cares about instilling that passion in others. Izzy holds a Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University where she studied Arts & Humanities and Natural Resource Management. Prior to joining ISEA, Izzy worked as the director of a summer camp on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Outside of work, Izzy enjoys exploring new trails with her dog, throwing pottery and baking pies and other sweet treats.

Harrison Fischer

Marketing and Communications Coordinator 231-271-3077 ext. 109

Harrison first joined ISEA in the summer of 2022. He is originally from the Ann Arbor area; he spent many summers traveling up north, wading through creeks and getting lost in the woods. After graduating from Bowling Green State University, and helping to win a rugby national championship, Harrison decided the next step was to work in Outdoor Education where he found a love for teaching, working with kids, and paddling. After completing a Masters of Education in 2021 Harrison and his wife Nicole looked around trying to figure out where to head off to next. Traverse City seemed like the perfect fit, with career opportunities and the Great Lakes calling they took the leap and have loved every minute. 

When not at ISEA Harrison can be found playing disc golf, walking his dog, or enjoying the beauty of northern Michigan with Nicole. 

Ben Hale

ISEA Captain (231) 271-3077 ext. 103

Ben was one of our early interns in 1997. After receiving his Bachelor of Zoology, he helped crew and sail tall ships not only in 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.

Lily Heyns

ISEA Captain 231-271-3077

Lily embarked on her sailing career in 2009, starting out as a deckhand aboard a Windjammer in Maine. During her early years, she sailed as far as Greenland and Puerto Rico. In 2013, seeking new adventures, she made her way to Traverse City to explore sailing on the Great Lakes, discovering a love for freshwater sailing.

Introduced to Inland Seas during the Spring Schoolship season of 2013 while working for schooner Manitou, Lily found it to be the highlight of the Manitou schedule. In 2018, Lily joined ISEA as a relief captain for their programs aboard schooner Inland Seas. With the growth of ISEA programming and the acquisition of schooner Alliance, Lily officially became the second full-time captain in early 2023.

When ashore, you can find Lily on walks around her property with her dog and cat, baking, and gardening.

Kate Jarvi

Office Manager (231) 271-3077 ext. 108

Kate moved to Traverse City in the fall of 2021 and is excited by ISEA’s mission. She has lived in a variety of places but has deep connections to Michigan, including many years of visiting grandparents in the Upper Peninsula. Curious by nature and with a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan Technological University (1988), she looks forward to learning more about the Great Lakes from ISEA staff, volunteers and students.

Outside of the office, Kate loves hiking, exploring parks with friends and family, and making and appreciating art.

Julie Johnson

School Partnerships Coordinator (231) 271-3077 x107

Julie joined the ISEA team in May 2024. Growing up in Michigan, she has always loved all things water, whether that be swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, or beach rock hunting. She attended Michigan State University for her Bachelor of Science in Zoology and her Master of Science in Community Sustainability. Prior to joining ISEA, she has held a variety of positions, including working as a research assistant in a limnology lab, a park ranger at Sleeping Bear Dunes with their piping plover crew, and as the coordinator for an ecology-based afterschool program for high school students in Benzie County.

In her free time, Julie can be found watching birds, gardening, cooking, laying on the beach, or cozying up at home with her husband, cat, and dog.

Juliana Lisuk

Associate Director (231) 271-3077 ext. 104

Juliana joined ISEA in 2019. Growing up in Leland, MI, she spent many hours in, on, or around the Great Lakes and is excited to return to her northern Michigan roots. Juliana received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from Denison University and her Master of Science degree in Environmental Behavior, Education, and Communication from the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. She brings her past experience in the non-profit sector, environmental education, and coastal communities research to her job at ISEA.

Outside of work you can find Juliana exploring the outdoors through hiking, canoeing, and growing vegetables.

Rachel Ratliff

Volunteer Coordinator (231) 271-3077 ext. 106

Rachel earned a degree in natural resources management with a biology minor from Grand Valley State University in 2017. A year later she worked with Inland Seas as a Schoolship Education Intern. ISEA offers a unique opportunity to marry her knowledge of science and love of theater; the best sails come with a bit of dramatic flair! She is passionate about protecting the Great Lakes and inspiring the community to love our grand freshwater feature.

During her free time, you can find Rachel flipping her fins as a mermaid in the bay. She also enjoys chilling shore side cozied up with a book and her black cat.

Seasonal Staff

Rebecca Sisco

Rebecca has been around water since the beginning; growing up in Poughkeepsie NY, she rowed on the Hudson River, was on the swim team, and in general has enjoyed all that water has to offer. In 1995, Miss Hancock got her first taste of life aboard ship while serving as the Assistant on-board Educator on the Sloop Clearwater. Finding that she truly loved living and working on vessels, after earning a BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME, Rebecca found herself attending Great Lakes Maritime Academy. Following graduation and licensing in 2003, she worked as a deck officer aboard many Great Lakes freighters, but found the call of science to once again be strong. The Lake Explorer and Sally Ride quenched some of this thirst. As the wanderlust continued, Rebecca worked as a licensed deckhand on the Safari Endeavour, visiting SE Alaska and Baja, much to her delight. As luck or fate would have it, COVID cut this particular experience short, and Miss Hancock found herself once again in the clutches of a tallship, signing on as the mate of Inland Seas in the spring of 2021.

Life has never been better – sailing around Suttons Bay and beyond – spending time with musician, chef and husband Joshua – kayaking down to her house on the Boardman from upriver – and giving her cat Freya all the scritchens. A perfect circle exists, indeed.

Seth Mathews

Seth Mathews was raised in Three Rivers, MI, spending countless hours on and in the water. From irrigation ponds to Lake Michigan, you can always find Seth near the water. A graduate of Cornerstone University, Seth’s first experience aboard a tall ship was on the Friends Good Will with the Michigan Maritime Museum. More recently, Seth has sailed the eastern seaboard with the Liberty Fleet, the AJ Meerwald, helping to run educational programs, and the Manitou right here in Grand Traverse Bay.

When not sailing, Seth enjoys cooking new dishes and watching weird shows and movies.

Jillian Votava

Lead Deckhand Educator (231) 271-3077

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 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.

2024 Interns

Izzy Plank

Deckhand Educator

Izzy grew up in Pennsylvania but has spent many summers visiting Lake Ontario. After earning an Associate’s in Environmental Science, Izzy learned to sail and has tried to be on or around the water as much as possible since then. They spent two summers in Maine, working as a deckhand on a windjammer and later as a youth sailing instructor. They also sailed with the Los Angeles Maritime Institute where they first discovered a passion for combining education and sailing. They are excited to bring that passion to ISEA, and they look forward to exploring and learning more about the Great Lakes. When not on boats, Izzy enjoys finding new hiking trails, reading a good book, or attempting to play various musical instruments.

Kushi Sulabelle

Great Lakes Education Intern

Kushi is from Rochester, Michigan, and with days spent at Michigan Lakes being the highlights of her summers, she is thrilled to spend this season sailing in Suttons Bay. Now, as a part of the ISEA team, Kushi is excited to share her passion for the Great Lakes and teach others about their importance. Over at Michigan State University, Kushi is majoring in Microbiology with a minor in Environment & Health with hopes of pursuing a future in environmental health preservation.

In her free time, Kushi enjoys spending time outdoors, whether it be hammocking or searching for critters! She also enjoys making jewelry, cooking fun meals, and exploring new music.

Lauren Sheffer

Great Lakes Waterways Intern
Lauren is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she double majored in Biology and Environmental Studies. Growing up right here in Leelanau County, she spent a majority of her childhood swimming in Lake Michigan and exploring many of the forests, dunes and inland lakes the area has to offer. She is passionate about stewardship within the Great Lakes region, and is excited to share her love for the region with others this summer.

In her off time, you can find Lauren hiking the nearby trails, checking out the local farmers markets, and loving on her two cats, Franklin and Leroy.

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