Understanding the Membership of the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) and What Drives Participation From Stakeholders

Joanna Philippoff, Assistant Specialist, Curriculum & Research Development Group, University of Hawaii at Manoa, HI, United States, Jenny East, Oregon Sea Grant, United States and Tara Hicks Johnson, University of New Hampshire, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, Durham, United States
The National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) is dedicated to advancing understanding of marine and freshwater systems. This is evidenced by the collaborative development of the Ocean Literacy Framework, blooming online offerings, a commitment to student engagement, expansion internationally, and by hosting an annual national conference. As the organization continues forward, we found it imperative to reflect on who currently makes up NMEA so the organization can proactively strategize for the future. To this end, we administered two surveys; the first to all NMEA members in 2018 and a second to attendees of our 2019 annual conference. The goals of these surveys were to 1) describe the current membership composition so the organization can better serve the needs of its stakeholders, and 2) better understand attendee conference experience to enhance networking and the co-production of Ocean Literacy outreach products.

The organization's members are reflective of the national demographics of educators—female (70%) and white (82%). Most NMEA members are involved in formal or informal education (>75%). There is a diverse membership age range and a large range in the number of years members have been involved in marine education. NMEA needs to ensure that there are professional development opportunities for each of these types of educators while leveraging the diverse experiences of its membership to enhance collaborative partnerships. While new NMEA members are joining to attend the annual conference, national membership uptick in the region of the most recent conference is not sustained.

Recruitment, engagement, and retention of members at all levels is important to the future of NMEA and other professional organizations. In addition to creating opportunities that address current membership needs, we hope these findings can be used as a baseline to measure the effectiveness of new member initiatives—including those designed to enhance diversity.