Meet Our Staff
Herring Gut Learning Center does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, political affiliation, age, or religious beliefs in the administration of its programs.
Sam Belknap grew up in Midcoast Maine in the towns of Damariscotta and Bristol. He learned to lobster from his grandfather and father and grew up on the waters of Muscongus Bay. After graduating from Lincoln Academy in 2000, Sam succumbed to a youthful wanderlust and left Maine for Arizona and the west coast. Thankfully the salt water in his blood drew him back to Maine to pursue BA in Anthropology at the University of Maine. After graduating summa cum laude in 2007, Sam started the Masters program at UMaine’s renowned Climate Change Institute. After obtaining his masters and holding various jobs, including running his family’s lobster wharf in Round Pond Maine, Sam returned to pursue a PhD at UMaine as a National Science Foundation Research Fellow. He is currently finishing his doctoral work on the role of leadership in the success of Maine’s iconic lobster fishery.
Sam’s passion has always been Maine’s coastal communities, especially those where many people rely on the sea to make a living. He is incredibly excited to join the team at Herring Gut Learning Center, where he sees people helping the children who are at the core of these coastal communities. “Herring Gut has a special place in my heart,” Sam says, “Having struggled in traditional classroom settings, especially in High School, I know firsthand the difference that experiential learning and one on one time with exceptional educators can make. That’s why I am thrilled to support the great work that Ann, Alex, Heather and Liz are doing here for this region’s students”.
Sam sees aquaculture as playing a key role in the future of Maine’s coastal economy, and the work on aquaculture and aquaponics that provides the core of Herring Gut’s curriculum will be integral in helping future generations of Maine students.
Sam, his wife Christina, and two boys, Henry and Wesley are thrilled to move back to Midcoast Maine and once again join the communities that they love so much. In fact, Wesley, who is four years old, has already told his parents that he, “will be going to Herring Gut school because of all the really cool things they do”.
Executive Assistant / Marine Science Educator
Originally from a small town in Western New York, Liz has always had a love of the waterfront, fishing and flipping over rocks in Conesus and Hemlock Lakes. She quickly fell in love with Maine on a family trip, and decided to spend 4 years at the University of New England receiving her B.S. in both Marine Biology and Aquaculture & Aquarium Science with a minor in Mathematics. During her four years at UNE, Liz was able to conduct research in the Ornamental Fishes Aquaculture lab and intern at the Maine State Aquarium. After graduation, Liz spent time in Florida as a camp counselor, but missed the mountains and cold New England waters so she jumped on the opportunity to find herself back in Maine working with the Maine State Aquarium. With a love of the ocean, education, and aquaponics, she was thrilled to accept a position at the Herring Gut Learning Center! Liz loves to travel and in her spare time she can be found hiking, rock climbing and kayaking all around the beautiful coast of Maine!
Aquaculture and Marine Science Teacher
Born in Newburyport, MA, Ann learned a great deal about the world around her by exploring the mudflats and harbors of Plum Island, she went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts and then did graduate studies at Clark University in Worcester, MA. Her professional career began in communications before segueing into science education.
Having taught children, adolescents, and adults in science and environmental education in formal academic settings, as well as through Mass. Audubon Society, Ann has developed a love for hands-on experiential learning - making her a great fit here at Herring Gut.
Ann held the positions of science and master teacher at the Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School, in Worcester, before moving to St. George in 2007, where she has worked in the Camden-Rockport Middle and Elementary schools. Ann volunteers as a steward of the Fort Point Trail in St. George and loves exploring the coastline of our peninsula by kayak.
Marine Science and Aquaculture Educator and Communications Manager
Growing up in landlocked central Massachusetts, Alex's fondest memories were escaping to the coast of Maine on vacation and investigating the wonder of the shoreline and the animals that live there. She pursued this love of the ocean while attending Bowdoin College, having the opportunity to conduct a yearlong research project on the green sea urchin at the Coastal Studies Station on Orr's Island in Harpswell. Alex received her B.A. in Biology, with a focus in Marine Biology, and a minor in Italian from Bowdoin in 2010. Upon graduating, Alex joined the Herring Gut staff for a two year appointment as an Island Fellow, an Americorps position in cooperation with the Island Institute and was later hired. She recently received her Master's Degree in Science Education from Oregon State University.
Alex is thrilled that she has the opportunity to share her love of the ocean with local students and can often be found tide pooling and sharing her knowledge with anyone that may be around her, her faithful companion Bailey at her side!
Aquaculture and Marine Science Teacher
Heather grew up in Gorham, ME and spent most of her childhood exploring the outdoors and in awe of the natural world. Before joining the team at Herring Gut Learning Center, Heather received a B.A. in biology from Clark University in Worcester, MA studying the evolution of threespine stickleback fish. After a nature interpretation internship through Project Puffin in 2005, she began her career as an experiential science educator, working at outdoor education programs based in New York, West Virginia, Florida and California. In 2016 she received a M.S. degree through San Francisco State University studying plastic pollution in aquatic habitats.
For Heather, returning to her home state of Maine to share and explore the ocean with students and teachers is a dream come true. Her other dreams include playing in a rock band and visiting the ocean’s depths in a submersible- not necessarily at the same time. Heather also enjoys outdoor adventures, traveling, expressing creativity through art and writing, and listening to waves on the shore.
"Herring Gut taught me almost everything I needed to know for my current job ... They also have helped me through some of the roughest patches in my life by just being there and encouraging me to be better."
"Herring Gut was absolutely amazing. The teachers there were also great. I learned a lot by going there."