Annual Report

Fiscal Year 2019

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 his friend, 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 600 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 teaching courses in these programs. In addition, Harbor Branch researchers were appointed to FAU Affiliated Faculty positions.


Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation and FAU Harbor Branch.

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 rechristened Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation.


The Harbor Branch Foundation today.

A separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation (HBOIF), also known as the Harbor Branch Foundation, supports the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, a research institute at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). 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 through grants for research and education in marine sciences and ocean engineering. 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 term 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, 2019, our Endowment corpus totaled $75,819,940.89. 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 FY19 Financial Statements
July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019

pie graph of allocation of grants and operations

Love Your Lagoon  Funding for FAU Harbor Branch

Fiscal Years 2012 - 2019

bar graph of love your lagoon funding for fau harbor branch

Year End Market Value of Investments

Fiscal Years 2007-2019

line graph for year end market value of investments
Love Your Lagoon

2019 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

Dolphin Sponsors
Evans Properties, Inc.
Mr. John N. McConnell, Jr. & Mrs. Marilyn McConnell
Mr. 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

Manatee Sponsors
Mr. Michael Brown, Sr. and Mrs. Mimi Brown
Florida Power & Light
Mr. Michael Minton and Mrs. Misty Minton and
the Law Firm of Dean, Mead, Minton & Zwemer
Mr. Ed Michelson and The Atlanta Consulting Group
Wells Fargo 

Seahorse Sponsors
Adams Ranch • Mr. C. Amos Bussmann and Sea Technology Magazine • DZ Advertising
Dr. Joseph Ferro and Mrs. Olivia Ferro • Ms. Katha Kissman
Kmetz, Elwell, Graham & Associates, PLLC • Dr. Ed Lippisch and Mrs. Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
Martin County Community Foundation • Martin Health Systems • Metz, Husband & Daughton, P.A.
The Mikita Foundation • Oceans, Reefs & Aquariums – ORA
Mr. John Papa and Mrs. Barbara Papa • Dale Sorensen Real Estate • Ms. Isabelle Tapley
Vero Insurance • Windsor • Wyland Foundation

Mr. Wayne Phillips and Mrs. Linda Phillips • Mr. Tuck Ferrell and Mrs. Cathy Ferrell
Mr. Bob Solari and Mrs. Jackie Solari

Foundation Giving

FY19 Grants Commitments and Payments:

Multi-Year Grants:

- New Faculty Hires
- Rewarding Faculty Excellence

Annual Payment:


Life of Grant Paid Out To Date:


Single Year Grants:

- Florida Center for Coastal and Human Health
- Promoting Faculty Recruitment, Retention and Research Excellence
- Bridge Funds Pool
- Preservation of Historical Johnson-Sea-Link Submersible Video
  Tapes and Data for Research, Conservation, and Education
- Purchase of a 36 Passenger Pontoon Boat for HBOI Immersion
  Tours and Other Outreach Opportunities
- Marilyn C. Link Memorial Scholarship
- HBSA Volunteer Award
- 2019 Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows
- 2019 Indian River Lagoon Symposium
- 2019 Operational Support

Love Your Lagoon Net Proceeds Raised Since 2012

Annual Award:





New Faculty Hire Program

This seven-year grant commitment 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 these 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 committed $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.

Promoting Faculty Recruitment, Retention and Research Excellence

Following up on an initial Foundation three-year grant (Ensuring Faculty Excellence) which commenced in FY15 and concluded in FY18, the Foundation provided an FY19 Promoting Faculty Recruitment, Retention and Research Excellence Grant of up to 20% Salary Support for eligible faculty in the amount of up to $520,000. The FAU-HBOI Executive Director defined a set of criteria/goals for each eligible faculty member that aligned with the Institute’s goals and strategic plan, and that positioned the faculty member and HBOI for greater success. Individual achievement (i.e. successful completion) was assessed by the FAU-HBOI Executive Director at each’s annual review and appraisal with a final report of all achievements (or non-achievement) compiled and provided to the Foundation. Possible criteria/goals and percent effort/incentive for achievement towards excellence included review of awards received of external grants, publications, specific professional achievement, scientific Development and additional goals for eligible non research-intensive faculty or Program Managers. The Foundation’s time-limited grant was intended to provide a cushion and to incentivize Faculty to apply for and receive new external grant dollars that would in turn support them along with 30% E&G funds from FAU. Research faculty who are not teaching faculty are typically required to support themselves by applying for and receiving external funding.

Florida Center for Coastal and Human Health

Warming temperatures, sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns and so called “tropicalization” coupled to population growth are creating documented ecological shifts in Florida Coastal Ecosystems. This $650,000 grant was provided to seed the creation of the Florida Center for Coastal and Human Health. This Center will provide overarching leadership addressing the health of Florida coastal ecosystems and communities. The five Center objectives of FAU Harbor Branch personnel and partners have included:

1. Measurement/Observation/Models
2. Multi‐"Omics”
3. Trophic Transfer of Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins
4. Toxins and Toxicity: Assays
5. Outreach and Engagement

To become involved in or support the Center’s work, please contact Dr. James Sullivan, Executive Director, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at FAU.

Love Your Lagoon and The Indian River Lagoon Observatory

Since 2012, the Harbor Branch Foundation has hosted a signature event, Love Your Lagoon. With $730,818 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.

• 2019 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 2019, the Foundation provided $6,351 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. 

• 2019 Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows Program
$109,500 in proceeds from the 2019 event will fund the work of students involved in HBOI’s Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows program in 2019-2020. 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.

Other Grants

Purchase of a 36 Passenger Pontoon Boat for HBOI Immersion Tours and Other Outreach Opportunities: $150,000

Preservation of Historical Johnson-Sea-Link Submersible Video Tapes and Data for Research, Conservation, and Education: $89,989

Establish a Harbor Branch History Display at the Ocean Discovery Visitors Center: $7,190

Marilyn C. Link Memorial Internship: $5,000

HBSA Volunteer Award: $1,250

Operational Support

In addition, to hosting a visit from The Jefferson Project and a reception for Dr. Margaret Leinen of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, in FY19, the Harbor Branch Foundation also provided a total of $1,623.92 in operational support for various administrative functions and activities at FAU Harbor Branch.


photo of aquaculture specialty license plate

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


Determining the Market and Nutritional Value for Sea Vegetable Aquaculture
Dr. Megan Davis

Protect Florida Whales

photo of protect florida whales specialty license plate

Exploring Florida Whale Health in a Rapidly Changing Environment
Dr. Annie Page-Karjian


Using Emerging Technologies for Population and Behavioral Ecology Assessment of Florida Whales
Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe

Protect Wild Dolphins

photo of protect wild dolphins specialty license plate

MMRC Stranding Response
Steve Burton, M.Sc.


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

Dr. Jim Sullivan


Real-time Assessment and Management of the Risk of Infectious Disease in Florida Wild Dolphins
Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe


Photo-identification – Update and Expansion of Publications and Scientific Data Dissemination
Marilyn Mazzoil

Save Our Seas

photo of save our seas specialty license plate

Florida Deep-water Marine Biodiversity: Digitization of Submersible Videotapes for Research, Education, and Conservation
John Reed


Improving monitoring and understanding of phytoplankton and harmful algal blooms in the southern Indian River Lagoon
Dr. Jim Sullivan


Determining New Sediment Metrics for Seagrass Restoration Monitoring
Dr. Dennis Hanisak


Water Quality and Biological Responses of Florida Bay to Freshwater Discharges from the Everglades
Dr. Mingshun Jiang


Characterizing Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons in the Indian River Lagoon
Dr. Amy Wright


Differential Gene and Protein Expression on Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells Treated with a Marine Natural Compound
Dr. Esther Guzman


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

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 Michael O'Reilly

Michael O’Reilly

2019 Chair

photo of michael toner

Michael Toner

2019 Vice Chair

photo of marjorie raines

Marjorie Raines

2019 Treasurer

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William J. Stewart, Esq.

2019 Secretary/Legal Counsel
Ex Officio

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Michael J. Brown, Sr.

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C. Amos Bussmann

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Robert Campbell

photo of joseph z duke the third

Joseph Z. Duke, III

Emeritus, Ex Officio

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Joseph Ferro, MD

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George Frazza

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John Papa

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James Seitz


photo of katha kissman

Katha Kissman

President & CEO

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Debbie Dutton

Director of Operations

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Cyndi Permenter

Administrative Assistant

2019 Committees

Audit Committee

John Papa, Chair
Michael J. Brown, Sr.
C. Amos Bussmann
Robert Campbell 
Michael Toner

Finance Committee

Marjorie D. Raines, Chair
Michael O’Reilly
John Papa
Michael Toner

Governance Committee

William J. Stewart, Esq.
George Frazza
Michael O’Reilly
Marjorie Raines
Michael Toner

Grants Committee

Michael Toner, Chair
Michael J. Brown, Sr.
C. Amos Bussmann
Joseph Ferro, MD
Michael O’Reilly
James Seitz

Nominating Committee

Joseph Ferro, MD, Chair
Joseph Z. Duke, III
Michael O’Reilly
William J. Stewart, Esq.

External Support

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
Jim McGuigan

External Accountant
Kmetz, Nuttall, Elwell, Graham CPAs


FY19 External Auditor

How You Can Support

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

photo of love your lagoon invitation

Sponsor or attend our annual Love Your Lagoon Gala Dinner!

The Love Your Lagoon Gala Dinner, hosted by the Board of Directors of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, has raised funds and generated greater awareness of these critical issues for the past 7 years. Since our first event in 2012, over $730,818 has been raised to support FAU Harbor Branch’s ongoing Indian River Lagoon Observatory research and outreach efforts. Sponsorships help underwrite the event costs so that 100% of the net proceeds serve this purpose.

Traditionally, HBOIF has named an honoree at each of its previous events. Past Honorees have included the Florida environmental pioneer, Nathaniel Reed, in 2012; the late, great land and lagoon protector, Alto “Bud” Adams, Jr. in 2013; Vero’s First Lady, Alma Lee Loy, in 2014; lagoon advocate, Florida Oceanographic Society’s Mark Perry, in 2015; the Smithsonian’s early lagoon champion Dr. Mary Rice, in 2016; the woman who coined the name “Indian River Lagoon” as well as so much more, Diane Barile, in 2017; in 2018, the twenty-six HBOI Principal Investigators proudly funded by HBOIF: Matt Ajemian, PhD; Steve Burton, MS; Laurent Cherubin, PhD; Fraser Dalgliesh, PhD; Nick Dickens, PhD; Esther Guzman, PhD; Dennis Hanisak, PhD; Mingshun Jiang, PhD; Brian Lapointe, PhD; Susan Laramore, PhD; Jim Masterson, PhD; Marilyn Mazzoil; Peter McCarthy, PhD; Greg O’Corry-Crowe, PhD; Bing Ouyang, PhD; Annie Page-Karjian, PhD; Shirley Pomponi, PhD; John Reed, PhD; Marty Riche, PhD; Adam Schaefer, MPH; James Sullivan, PhD; Michael Twardowski, PhD; Joshua Voss, PhD; Anni Vuorenkoski Dalgliesh, PhD; Guojun Wang, PhD; Paul Wills, PhD; Amy Wright, PhD.; and in 2019, former Florida Senate President Joe Negron. The 2020 Love Your Lagoon event will be held Friday, February 7, 2020 and the 2020 Indian River Lagoon Symposium will be held Thursday, February 13 and Friday, February 14, 2020.

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

Purchase a Harbor Branch Specialty License Plate!

photo of aquaculture specialty license plate

Did you know that half of the seafood we eat comes from aquaculture, also known as fish farming? Fish, clams, shrimp and plants are items grown for food and for restocking overfished areas. The Aquaculture license plate, designed by marine wildlife artist and conservationist Guy Harvey, supports the research that Harbor Branch scientists do to advance the industry, like testing land-based culture methods that reuse water and limit waste while growing healthy and safe seafood.

($25 plus registration fees)

photo of protect florida whales specialty license plate

Several whale species can be found in Florida waters, including the most endangered of all great whales: the North Atlantic right whale. Designed by marine life artist Wyland, the Protect Florida Whales plate supports protection of these endangered species through public education and conservation. Plate proceeds also fund Harbor Branch’s 24/7 emergency response for whales that become stranded.

($25 plus registration fees)

photo of protect wild dolphins specialty license plate

The Protect Wild Dolphins plate, designed by marine artist Steve Diossy, enables 24/7 emergency response for dolphins that become stranded or entangled in fishing gear or other items foreign to the oceans or estuary ecosystems. Harbor Branch’s marine mammal teams also conduct a variety of studies to help understand dolphin health, life history, and the environment where they live.

($20 plus registration fees)

photo of save our seas specialty license plate

The Guy Harvey-designed Save Our Seas license plate funds Harbor Branch’s research on Florida’s waters and coral reefs. Harbor Branch scientists investigate the health of coastal waterways by utilizing a network of automated water quality measurement stations that allow researchers and the public to track conditions in popular boating and swimming spots.

($25 plus registration fees)

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.