Annual Report

Fiscal Year 2017

What Do We Do?

photo of jsl5 front by John Reed

Photo by John Reed, M.Sc.

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 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 humankind. 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 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 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 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 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. Its 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, 2017, our Endowment corpus totaled $70,431,498. 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 uses 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; 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

Taken from Statement of Functional Expenses FY17 Financial Statements
July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017

pie graph of allocatio of grants ad operations

Specialty License Plate Grants to FAU Harbor Branch

Breakdown by Plate
July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017

pie graph of specialty license plate grants to FAU Harbor Branch

Love Your Lagoon Funding for FAU Harbor Branch

Fiscal Years 2012 - 2017

bar graph of love your lagoon funding for fau harbor branch

Year End Market Value of Investments

Fiscal Years 2007-2017

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2017 Love Your Lagoon Sponsors

Mangrove Sponsors
Mr. Joseph Z. Duke, III and Mrs. Jennifer Johnson Duke
Mr. Michael O’Reilly and Mrs. Marie O'Reilly

Seagrass Sponsors
Ms. Marjorie Raines and Mr. Harold Baker 

Oyster Sponsors
The Law Firm of Dean, Mead, Minton & Zwemer
Mr. James Johnson and Mrs. Gretchen Johnson
Treasure Coast Newspapers

Dolphin Sponsors
Evans Properties, Inc. ∙ Ms. Katha Kissman ∙ Mr. John Papa and Mrs. Barbara Papa
William J. Stewart, Esq. and Mrs. Laurie Kaneb-Stewart and the Law Firm of Rossway Swan Tierney Barry Lacey & Oliver, P.L.
Mr. Michael Toner and Mrs. Carol Toner ∙ 97.1 Ocean FM, and Newsradio 1490 WTTB AM/FM

Manatee Sponsors
Adams Ranch ∙ AT&T ∙ Ms. Marilyn C. Link ∙ Dr. Ed Lippisch and Mrs. Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
Mr. Michael D. Minton and Mrs. Misty Minton ∙ Mr. Ed Michelson and The Atlanta Consulting Group ∙ PNC ∙ Wells Fargo 

Seahorse Sponsors
Mr. Michael Brown, Sr. and Mrs. Mimi Brown ∙  Mr. C. Amos Bussmann & Sea Technology Magazine ∙ Florida Power and Light
Drs. Tom and Shannon Galinis of Aesthetic Dentistry of Palm City ∙ Mr. Patrick Higgs & Mrs. Nancy Higgs
Dr. Megan Davis-Hodgkins & Mr. Gary Hodgkins ∙ Dr. Joseph Ferro and Mrs. Olivia Ferro ∙ Kmetz, Nuttall, Elwell, Graham CPAs
Mrs. Clare Kremer ∙ Linus Automotive Group ∙ Martin Health Systems ∙ Metz, Husband and Daughton ∙ Mikita Foundation
Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company ∙  OTT Hydromet ∙ Mr. Shaun Plymale and Mrs. Stacey Plymale and Treasure Coast Legal
Dr. Thomas Plymale and Mrs. Sherry Plymale ∙ Premier Estate Properties ∙ Stuart Magazine ∙ Jim  and Jonnie Swann Corp.
Mr. Christopher Waln and Mrs. Janet Waln ∙Windsor ∙Wyland Foundation

Foundation Giving

FY17 Grants Commitments and Payments:

Multi-Year Grants:

- New Faculty Hires
- Rewarding Faculty Excellence
- Ensuring Faculty Excellence
- Ensuring a Robust Development Strategy

Annual Payment:


Life of Grant Paid Out To Date:


Single Year Grants:

- 2017 Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows
- 2017 Indian River Lagoon Symposium
- 2017 Operational Support

Love Your Lagoon Net Proceeds Raised Since 2012

Annual Award:



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

Rewarding Faculty Excellence

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 Faculty Excellence

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.

Ensuring a Robust Development Strategy

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. $412,276 of this grant was utilized before being closed.

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 $505,900 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.

• 2017 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 2017, the Foundation provided $4,016 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. 

• 2017 Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows Program
$89,826 in proceeds from the 2017 event  will fund the work of students involved in HBOI’s Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows program in 2017-2018. 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.

Operational Support

In FY17, the Harbor Branch Foundation also provided a total of $4,968 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 Nutrition of Macroalgal Blooms
in the Indian River Lagoon
Dr. Brian Lapointe


The Microbiome of the Indian River Lagoon: A Baseline Study
Dr. Peter McCarthy


The Development of a 3D Spheroid Breast Cancer Cell Assay
for Screening Peak Library Fractions from Organisms
Collected in Florida Waters
Dr. Esther Guzman


Indian River Lagoon Shark and Ray Assessment
Dr. Matt Ajemian


Indian River Lagoon Observatory (IRLO): Ecosystem Function of a Nationally Important Estuary in Transition
Dr. Dennis Hanisak

Protect Wild Dolphins

photo of protect wild dolphins license plate


Epidemiology and Population Health
of Indian River Lagoon Bottlenose Dolphins
Adam Schaefer, M.P.H.


MMRC Stranding Response
Steve Burton, M.Sc.


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


Marine Mammal Health Investigations
Using Molecular Diagnostics
Dr. Annie Page-Karjian


Dolphins as Sentinels for Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins in the Indian River Lagoon: An Interdisciplinary Study
Dr. Jim Sullivan


photo of aquaculture license plate


Advancement of Land-Based Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture
Dr. Paul Wills


Determination of IRL Pathogenic Bacterial Impacts on the East Coast Florida Aquaculture Industry
Dr. Susan Laramore


Non-Intrusive Monitoring of Activity and
Biometrics of Marine Broodfish
Dr. Bing Ouyang

Protect Florida Whales

photo of protect florida whales license plate


MMRC Stranding Response
Steve Burton, M.Sc.


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 Whales 
Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe


Marine Mammal Health Investigations
Using Molecular Diagnostics
Dr. Annie Page-Karjian

Board of Directors

As of June 30, 2017

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 michael o' reilly

Michael O’Reilly

2017 Chair (Feb–Present)
2016 Vice Chair

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Michael  Toner

2016-2017 Vice Chair

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Michael D. Minton

2017 Chair (Jan–Feb) 
2016 Vice Chair

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Marjorie Raines

2016-2017 Treasurer

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William J. Stewart, Esq.

Secretary/Legal Counsel
Ex Officio

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Michael J. Brown, Sr.

photo of C Amos Bussmann

C. Amos Bussmann

photo of Joseph Z Duke the third

Joseph Z. Duke, III

Ex Officio

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Joseph Ferro, MD

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Nancy Higgs

photo of marilyn c link

Marilyn C. Link

Ex Officio

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John Papa

photo of sherry plymale

Sherry Plymale

photo of doctor anton post

Dr. Anton Post

Ex Officio

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Katha Kissman

President & CEO

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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 Counsel
Rossway, Swan, Tierney, Barry, Lacey, and Oliver

Ed Michelson

Managing Director & Founder Atlanta Consulting Group

Andy Palmer

Allison Liby-Schoonover
Metz, Husband & Daughton, P.A.

Brian Elwell

External Accountant Kmetz, Nuttall, Elwell, Graham CPAs


FY17 External Auditor

2017 Committees

Audit Committee

John Papa, Chair
Michael Brown, Sr.
C. Amos Bussmann
Nancy Higgs

Finance Committee

Marjorie D. Raines, Chair
Mike O’Reilly
John Papa
Sherry Plymale
Mike Toner

Governance Committee

William J. Stewart, Esq.
Michael D. Minton
Mike O’Reilly
Marjorie Raines
Mike Toner

Grants Committee

Michael Toner, Chair
Michael Brown, Sr.
C. Amos Bussmann
Joe Ferro
Nancy Higgs
Mike O’Reilly

Nominating Committee

Joe Ferro, Chair
Michael D. Minton
Mike O’Reilly
William J. Stewart, Esq.

How You Can Support

There are four ways you can support the important work of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute:

photo of the seventh annual love your lagoon invitation

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 $500,000 raised to date, the proceeds of the 2017 event was used to fund 11 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.  

Friday, February 2, 2018. For sponsorship ticket information,
contact Katha Kissman, President & CEO,
at or 772-466-9876, ext. 200.

Purchase a Harbor Branch Specialty License Plate!

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

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.

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 or 772-466-9876, x200.
Ph: 772-466-9876
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation 
5600 US 1 North │ Fort Pierce │ FL, 34946
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