Kathy Schmitt Kline aboard the S/V Denis, a replica sailing ship and used for teacher workshops conducted in collaboration with Minnesota Sea Grant. Credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant
Nov. 2, 2018
By Elizabeth White
Although she started as a student, Kathy Kline left Sea Grant this fall as a professional writer with an award-winning book and a long list of accomplishments resulting from a successful career as an education specialist.
Kline began her time at Wisconsin Sea Grant in 2000 as a graduate student working on the Earthwatch Radio program produced by Rich Hoops. After receiving her master’s degree in life sciences communication, Kline headed east to New Hampshire Sea Grant, where she worked as a science writer from 2002 to 2004. The lure of her home state proved irresistible, and Kline returned to Wisconsin Sea Grant as a writer for six more years. She then joined the outreach team and became a part-time education specialist in 2012.
An enduring part of Kline’s legacy will clearly be “People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin’s Love Affair with an Ancient Fish,” co-written with Ronald Bruch and Fred Binkowski and including photographs by Bob Rashid. Published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press in 2009, and winning 12 awards, the book examines the profound cultural impact of sturgeon in Wisconsin through interviews, stories and photographs. Due to its success, the book will soon be available in a paperback edition.
Co-author Binkowski says, “When you look through the book, there are many pages describing experiences that Ron and I have lived. Kathy's science writing skills
brought those events to life and provided an opportunity for a wide audience of people to learn about the history of lake sturgeon on the Lake Winnebago system. Kathy's commitment to producing the book was sincere and enthusiastic, and her engagement with sturgeon conservation and the Lake Winnebago community continued long after the book's publication.”
"Kathy’s passion for educating and for local fish was the driving force behind raising awareness of Wisconsin’s wild-caught and farm-raised fish through the Eat Wisconsin Fish program," said colleague and fisheries specialist Titus Seilheimer. Credit: Wisconsin Sea Grant
As an education specialist, Kline was the mover and shaker behind the Eat Wisconsin Fish campaign, an effort to promote local fish consumption that included culinary events, public opinion research, industry collaborations and an informative website eatwisconsinfish.org. One of Kline’s collaborators on the project was Fisheries Outreach Specialist Titus Seilheimer: “Kathy’s passion for educating and for local fish was the driving force behind raising awareness of Wisconsin’s wild-caught and farm-raised fish through the Eat Wisconsin Fish program. Her passion and skill for education and communication will be greatly missed.”
Kline’s passion for education brought her to collaborate with Minnesota Sea Grant through the Center for Great Lakes Literacy to provide teachers real-world Great Lakes sailing and research experience during voyages aboard the S/V Denis Sullivan. After creating a hands-on underwater engineering activity for the Wisconsin Alumni Association Grandparents University program, she worked with middle-school science
teacher Lynn Kurth to develop the ROVe pack, a complete underwater remotely operated vehicle curriculum kit. Her work also brought the Attack Packs, traveling AIS kits, back into relevance.
Connections with teachers and others also allowed Kline to influence the proposals Sea Grant receives for education outreach projects. According to Assistant Director for Extension David Hart, “Kathy helped shape and cultivate the education proposals we receive. We used to fund just one per cycle. Now we’re up to three, and they’re all high-quality, impactful projects.”
Since 2009, Kline has also been hard at work caring for a growing family, and her departure from Sea Grant will allow her more time for that project.