Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation logo

Annual Report

Fiscal Year 2016

What Do We Do?

Photo of Florida Atlantic University

The mission of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation is to support the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, a research institute within Florida Atlantic University.

There are three ways we fulfill our mission:

• Through the careful investment and stewardship of our assets. In addition to an Endowment corpus, we own several parcels of land that may be used in the future to support FAU Harbor Branch, either by possible lease, sale, development, or donation.

• Through strategic and impactful grant funding to FAU Harbor Branch.

• Through ambassadorship by being fully educated about FAU’s Harbor Branch and helping to inspire the public  about the scientific research and educational activities of FAU Harbor Branch.



The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution was founded by J. Seward Johnson Sr., whose deep concern for environmental preservation spurred his involvement in ocean research with famed inventor Edwin A. Link.

The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution was founded in 1971 to understand and conserve the oceans through exploration, research, and education for the benefit of mankind. Its global reputation for excellence in marine science and technology can be traced directly to the efforts of founder J. Seward Johnson, Sr. and famed inventor Edwin A. Link. Mr. Johnson’s deep concern for environmental preservation spurred his involvement in ocean research. Mr. Link’s passion for sea exploration produced innovations that opened the depths to some of the world’s most talented scientists. This intellectual curiosity extended to near-shore ecosystems and prompted the 1973 start of the Indian River Lagoon Coastal Zone Study, a complete environmental evaluation of the lagoon and nearby ocean habitats.


Summer Internship Program established.

In 1974, Harbor Branch established its summer internship program, which has provided hands-on marine science and technology experiences to over 500 young minds since. Harbor Branch’s internship program historically and to date has received significant support from The Link Foundation.

Late 1990s/Early 2000s

Education Division created leading to Harbor Branch’s first significant educational collaboration with Florida Atlantic University; Semester by the Sea and the Ocean Science Lecture Series.

In 2001, Harbor Branch and Florida Atlantic University executed a memorandum of understanding to undertake joint educational initiatives. Harbor Branch became involved in the educational programs of FAU, especially in the Department of Biological Sciences. Collaborative development of Ph.D. programs in Chemistry and Integrated Biology involved Harbor Branch faculty teaching courses in these programs. In addition, Harbor Branch researchers were appointed to FAU Affiliated Faculty positions.


FAU’s Harbor Branch and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation.

Harbor Branch and Florida Atlantic University began discussing how to best capitalize on a growing research and education relationship in 2006. At the end of 2007, Link’s canal and the institution that grew up around it became the northernmost of FAU’s six locations, FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. And the governing Board of the former Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution then became the governing board of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation.


The Harbor Branch Foundation today.

A separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, also known as the Harbor Branch Foundation or HBOIF, is a direct support organization to Florida Atlantic University to support FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. The Foundation provides grants for research and education in marine sciences and ocean engineering at FAU Harbor Branch. The governance and management of the Harbor Branch Foundation is about good stewardship and oversight of the Foundation’s assets to best provide support to FAU’s Harbor Branch.  In addition, the Harbor Branch Foundation directs annual proceeds from four Florida specialty license plates to further support marine exploration, research, conservation, and education at FAU Harbor Branch.

Investment and Stewardship


In addition to donations from generous Board members, the Endowment corpus is comprised of two donor restricted funds. The J. Seward Johnson, Sr., Charitable Trust Endowment Fund is a donor restricted endowment fund established in 1994. The primary objective of the Fund is to provide a long-term flow of income to the Foundation. The Fund shall terminate on June 30, 2020, at which time, the Fund shall convert to a fund held by the Foundation for its exclusive long-term use, benefit or purpose. The bulk of our current Endowment corpus resides in this Fund. The Seward Johnson Trust Fund for Oceanography is a donor-restricted fund. It’s primary objective was to operate and maintain the Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles, with a secondary objective to support underwater oceanography and for other oceanographic purposes. Since the establishment of this second fund, the Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles have been retired and the secondary objective has been its focus.

As of June 30, 2016, our Endowment corpus totaled $62,246,294. Our investment objective is to earn the highest possible total return, through capital appreciation and income return, consistent with prudent levels of risk. To best steward our Endowment corpus, the Foundation used the investment services of the Atlanta Consulting Group. Our spending policy reflects the fundamental objective of preserving and enhancing the resources of HBOI, both at present and in the future. The spending policy rate is to be no more than CPI plus five percent of the assets, calculated on a rolling three year average of the market value and actual disbursements are 100% discretionary. Our Endowment is a philanthropic legacy of founder J. Seward Johnson, Sr. It is estimated that 90% of his lifetime charitable giving was for his love of oceanography.  


The foundation operates using a lean, efficient and productive internal staff utilizing key external support.

Allocation of Grants & Operations

July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016

pie graph of allocation of grants and operations

Specialty License Plate Grants to FAU Harbor Branch

Breakdown by Plate
July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016

pie graph of specialty license plate grants to FAU Harbor Branch

Love Your Lagoon Funding for FAU Harbor Branch

Fiscal Years 2012 - 2016

bar graph of love your lagoon funding for FAU Harbor Branch

Year End Market Value of Investments

Fiscal Years 2007-2016

line graph of year end market value investments

2016 Love Your Lagoon Sponsors

Mangrove Sponsors
Mr. Joseph Z. Duke, III and Mrs. Jennifer Johnson Duke

Seagrass Sponsors
Mr. Michael O’Reilly and Mrs. Marie O’Reilly

Oyster Sponsors
Mr. James Johnson and Mrs. Gretchen Johnson ∙ PNC Bank ∙ Treasure Coast Newspapers

Dolphin Sponsors
Dr. Ralph W. Alewine, III and Mrs. Betty C. Alewine ∙ Mr. Howard Brennan & Mrs. Colleen Brennan ∙ Evans Properties, Inc.
Ms. Katha Kissman ∙ Dr. Ed Lippisch and Mrs. Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch ∙ Mr. John N. McConnell, Jr. and Mrs. Marilyn McConnell
Mr. Michael D. Minton & Mrs. Misty Minton and The Law Firm of Dean, Mead, Minton & Zwemer ∙ Ms. Marjorie Raines
Mr. William J. Stewart, Esq. and Mrs. Laurie Kaneb-Stewart ∙ Mr. Michael Toner and Mrs. Carol Toner
93.7 WGYL, 97.1 Ocean FM, and Newsradio 1490 WTTB

Manatee Sponsors
Adams Ranch ∙ AT&T ∙ Mr. John Connors and Mrs. Sheila Connors
Dr. Tom Galinis and Dr. Shannon Plymale-Galinis and Aesthetic Dentistry of Palm City ∙ The Kahle Foundation ∙ Ms. Marilyn C. Link
Martin Health Systems ∙ Mr. Ed Michelson and The Atlanta Consulting Group ∙ Wells Fargo ∙ Windsor

Seahorse Sponsors
Bottom’s Up Beverage ∙ Mr. C. Amos Bussmann & Sea Technology Magazine ∙ Dale Sorensen Real Estate ∙ Florida Power and Light
Mr. Patrick Higgs & Mrs. Nancy Higgs ∙ Dr. Megan Davis-Hodgkins & Mr. Gary Hodgkins ∙ J.J. Taylor Companies, Inc.
Kmetz, Nuttall, Elwell, Graham CPAs ∙ Mrs. Clare Kremer ∙ Metz, Husband & Daughton ∙ Mikita Foundation
Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company ∙ OTT Hydromet ∙ Mr. Shaun Plymale and Mrs. Stacey Plymale and Treasure Coast Legal
Mr. Robert J. Stilley and The Honorable MaryLynn Magar ∙ Stuart Magazine ∙ Mr. Jim Swann and Mrs. Jonnie Swann
UniFirst-Uniform Services

Foundation Giving

FY16 Grants Commitments and Payments:

Annual Payment On A Multi-Year Grant

• New Faculty Hires: $1,079,773
• Faculty Incentives: $143,542
• Ensuring Faculty Excellence: $400,320
• Ensuring A Robust Development Strategy: $285,182


• 2016 Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows: $111,350
• 2016 Indian River Lagoon Symposium: $10,000
• Operational Support: $50,000

New Faculty Hire Program

This seven-year grant of $5,481,051 provided FAU Harbor Branch a unique and competitive opportunity to recruit 8 new faculty/principal investigators by offering each three-year salary support and a major start-up package. As noted: “Investment in the faculty will transform Harbor Branch and provide substantial opportunities for collaboration across all of FAU. New faculty will also substantially increase our ability to contribute to the goal of doubling the research portfolio of FAU.” The grant was made to expand the faculty of Harbor Branch in key areas related to the initiatives:

• The Indian River Lagoon Observatory
• Ocean exploration platforms for the 21st century
• Integrated multi-trophic level aquaculture
•Advanced underwater sensory and communication technologies
• Core laboratory facilities for integrative molecular bioscience

Ensuring Faculty Excellence Grant

The total amount of this grant $1,734,750, was based on a three year projection of Faculty salaries and fringe benefits with a commitment to providing up to 20% of each faculty member’s salary and fringe benefits until funds were exhausted. As is typical for many educational research institutes, for FAU Harbor Branch, the salaries of the Faculty are a combination of institutionally-supported funding and externally-funded sponsored research grants. By providing the opportunity to earn 20% support from this grant, it was thought that this would further incentivize Faculty to excellence. The Harbor Branch Foundation intended for this salary support to be awarded through the development of specific criteria and made this grant contingent upon an understanding that any freed up dollars from the state-funded budget be reallocated within the FAU Harbor Branch institutionally-supported budget.

Incentive Program

Concurrent with the New Faculty Hire grant, this grant provided $1,465,000 over seven years at a designated pool of funds per year for incentive awards and grants. The purpose of this designated operational support was so that Harbor Branch could provide salary rewards and further incentivize current faculty by encouraging the faculty to win awards and other distinctions as well as secure additional external grants and publish and present at conferences to build a basis for FAU promotion. Rewards were retroactive regarding performance since joining FAU and an additional $400,000 was committed by the Harbor Branch Foundation over the life of the grant should any one year exceed that year’s pool allotment.

Ensuring a Robust Development Strategy for Harbor Branch

The Foundation Board voted in January 2014 to refrain from active fundraising, either on behalf of FAU Harbor Branch or the Foundation’s Endowment. Rather, the Board voted to provide a major Ensuring a Robust Development Strategy for HBOI grant to FAU Harbor Branch which would support the addition of a dedicated HBOI development staff of three based on a projection of salaries and fringe benefits for each over three years. The total amount of this award was $890,100.

This decision was based on the recommendation of an independent Organizational Analysis which noted that any development effort for HBOI should reside either exclusively at the Foundation or exclusively at FAU Harbor Branch so as not to be duplicative nor create inadvertent competition. The Harbor Branch Foundation may consider launching a capital campaign for its Endowment separate from or in conjunction with FAU at a future date and upon the satisfactory outcome of a feasibility study that demonstrates an available and cultivated donor pool for such a campaign exists.

The Indian River Lagoon Observatory

Since 2012, the Harbor Branch Foundation has hosted a signature event, Love Your Lagoon. With over $412,058 raised to date, each event has raised funds and generated greater awareness of the critical issues facing the Indian River Lagoon by supporting FAU Harbor Branch’s ongoing Indian River Lagoon Observatory research and outreach efforts.

2016 Indian River Lagoon Symposium
The Harbor Branch Foundation's Annual Love Your Lagoon Gala Dinner event was originally inspired to raise funds to raise awareness by mounting an Indian River Lagoon Symposium following the 2011-2012 algal blooms crisis. In 2016, the Foundation provided $10,000 towards this event. The Symposium is the result of a multi-institutional, multi-agency effort to provide a forum for discussing Indian River Lagoon science and its application to management of the Lagoon. The intent is to facilitate better communication among these groups so that the gaps between research and its application can be narrowed. Open to scientists, decision makers, students, education and outreach professionals, and the interested public, it draws over 600 participants over two days. 

2016 Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows Program
Proceeds from the 2016 event will fund the work of students involved in HBOI’s Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows program. The competitive process will result in support for salary, tuition, travel to present research, and/or materials necessary for the research project. Fellows will ultimately present their research at the Indian River Lagoon Symposium as well as at the FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science Graduate Research Day.

Connecting Users to IRL Data
In 2013, the Harbor Branch Foundation designated funds from the 2013 Love Your Lagoon Gala Dinner event to host two workshops to define national priorities for estuarine observing systems and regional priorities for the Indian River Lagoon Observatory. In FY16, the remaining funds of $37,363 were used to conduct a December 2015 workshop entitled The Indian River Lagoon Observatory: Connecting Users to IRL Data.

Consensus recommendations of the workshop included:

1. Work collaboratively to obtain the funding needed to maintain long-term data collection programs to meet scientific demands.
2. Use scientific data to identify pollution source locations in the IRL watershed and stop the flow of pollution into the Lagoon.
3. Identify and maintain an inventory of historic and ongoing IRL data sets.
4. Increase efforts to archive IRL data sets and make them accessible to users.
5. Organize and maintain a centralized listing of available IRL data sets and information on how to access them.
6. Develop observation and prediction systems as tools that can be used by a variety of user groups.
7. Identify threshold levels for critical environmental IRL data parameters and develop a way to automatically trigger flags when a threshold is exceeded.
8. Process and translate the science data to inform and engage the community.

Operational Support

In FY16, the Harbor Branch Foundation also provided a total of $50,000 in smaller operational grants to support various administrative functions and activities at FAU Harbor Branch.

Save Our Seas

photo of save our seas license plate


Ecology and Biochemistry of Harmful Algal Blooms
Dr. Brian Lapointe


Indian River Lagoon Observatory Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function of an Estuary in Transition
Dr. Dennis Hanisak


Ventilation Rates of the Indian River Lagoon Through Its Inlets
Dr. Laurent Chérubin


Analysis of Sediments in the Indian River Lagoon for Potential Herbicides
Dr. Amy Wright

Protect Wild Dolphins

photo of protect wild dolphins license plate


Epidemiology, Pathology and Population Health
Adam Schaefer, M.P.H.


MMRC Stranding Response
Adam Schaefer, M.P.H.


Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Reserve Funds
Steve Burton, M.Sc.


CetOMICS: a State-Wide Cetacean OMICS Initiative to Investigate the Health, Fitness, Behavior, and Ecology of  Dolphins
Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe


Photo-Identification – Dolphin Census and Spatiotemporal Trends
Marilyn Mazzoil


Assessing the Impacts of Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins on Dolphins
Dr. James Sullivan


photo of aquaculture license plate


An Initiative to Design and Demonstrate a Prototype Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture System for Sustainable Land-Based Aquaculture: Assimilative Component – Macroalgae
Dr. Dennis Hanisak


An Initiative to Design and Demonstrate a Prototype Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture System for Sustainable Land-Based Aquaculture
Dr. Paul Wills


An Initiative to Design and Demonstrate a Prototype Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture System for Sustainable Land-Based Aquaculture: Extractive Component – Sea Urchins and Other Echinoderms
Dr. Susan Laramore

Protect Florida Whales

photo of protect florida whales license plate

Grant Award $110,000

MMRC Stranding Response
Steve Burton, M.Sc.

Grant Award $60,000

Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Reserve Funds
Adam Schaefer, M.P.H.

Grant Award $150,000

CetOMICS: A State-Wide Cetacean OMICS Initiative to Investigate the Health, Fitness, Behavior and Ecology of Whales 
Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe

Board of Directors

A nonprofit Board of Directors, collectively and individually, commits to act in the best interests of the organization in which it serves. In this case, the Harbor Branch Foundation and its mission to serve FAU Harbor Branch. Individuals representing local, regional, and national geographic areas and affiliations comprise our board of directors. Each board member is strategically recruited to best support the fulfillment of mission. The Foundation is intent on building a board composition complimented with a palate of differing skills, experience, and strengths to bring key support and diversity of perspective to our decision-making processes. Per our bylaws, we shall have no less than five (5) and no more than twenty-five (25) members serving three year terms, with the eligibility to be re-elected for a second term. We also have ex officio, designated, appointed, and non-voting Directors. We elect Directors on a staggered term basis for leadership continuity.

photo of Joseph Z Duke the third

Joseph Z. Duke, III

2015 Chair
2016 Emeritus, Ex-Officio

photo of Michael D Minton

Michael D. Minton

2016 Chair &
2015 Vice Chair

photo of Michael O'Reilly

Michael O’Reilly

2016 Vice Chair &
2015 Treasurer

photo of William J Stewart

William J. Stewart, Esq.

Secretary/Legal Counsel
Ex Officio

photo of Michael Toner

Michael  Toner

2016 Vice Chair

photo of C Amos Bussmann

C. Amos Bussmann

photo of Joseph Ferro

Joseph Ferro, MD

photo of Nancy Higgs

Nancy Higgs

Photo of John Papa

John Papa

photo of Sherry Plymale

Sherry Plymale

photo of majorie raines

Marjorie Raines

photo of robert j stilley

Robert J. Stilley

photo of karl steene

Karl Steene


photo of jacqui thurlow-lippisch

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch


photo of marilyn link

Marilyn Link

Emerita, Ex-Officio

photo of doctor Megan Davis

Dr. Megan Davis

Interim Executive Director, HBOI Ex-Officio

photo of katha kissman

Katha Kissman

President & CEO

photo of debbie dutton

Debbie Dutton

Director of Operations

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Cyndi Permenter

Administrative Assistant

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Colleen Brennan

FY16 Director of Operations

External Support

Conlan Kennedy

SLP Marketing Coordinator (FAU)

William J. Stewart, Esq.

Legal CounselStewart, Evans, Stewart & Emmons, PA

Ed Michelson

Managing Director & FounderAtlanta Consulting Group

Andy Palmer

Metz, Husband & Daughton, P.A.

Brian Elwell

External AccountantKmetz, Nuttall, Elwell, Graham CPAs


FY16 External Auditor

2016 Committees

Audit Committee

Marjorie Raines, Chair
Amos Bussmann
Sherry Plymale

Finance Committee

Mike O’Reilly, Chair
Marilyn Link
Sherry Plymale
Karl Steene
Mike Toner

Governance Committee

Bill Stewart, Chair
Joe Duke
Michael Minton
Mike O'Reilly

Nominating Committee

Bob Stilley, Chair
Megan Davis
Nancy Higgs
Karl Steene
Bill Stewart

Grants Committee

Mikey Toner, Chair
Amos Bussmann
Joe Duke

How You Can Support

Purchase a Harbor Branch Specialty License Plate!

For more information about FAU Harbor Branch research supported by the four specialty license plates.

Purchase A Specialty License Plate
photo of save our seas license plate
photo of aquaculture license plate
photo of protect wild dolphins license plate
photo of protect florida whales license plate

An annual donation to one of Harbor Branch’s special funds at the Florida Atlantic University Foundation! 

Private gifts are essential for the continued growth and development of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Click Here to donate.

Ensure the legacy of Harbor Branch by making a planned gift!

Supporting the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation through a planned gift ensures that there will always be an income stream for operations and special projects and initiatives for Harbor Branch. Gifts of Cash, stocks and bonds, retirement assets, real estate, and/or insurance policies are all examples of planned giving through estate planning. For more information contact Katha Kissman, President & CEO, at kkissman@hboifoundation.org or 772-466-9876, x200.

Sponsor or attend our annual Love Your Lagoon Gala Dinner!

Since 2012, the Harbor Branch Foundation has hosted a signature event to benefit various aspects of FAU Harbor Branch’s scientific research, education and outreach efforts on the Indian River Lagoon. With over $400,000 raised to date, the proceeds of the 2016 event — $111,350 — was used to fund 14 FAU graduate students who were selected through a competitive process and proposal submission to perform research on the Indian River Lagoon while working on the Harbor Branch campus.  

Photo of the Sixth Annual Love Your Lagoon invite

Ph: 772-466-9876
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation
5600 US 1 North │ Fort Pierce │ FL, 34946
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