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Minnesota Sea Grant welcomes new business and industry liaison educator

The University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program welcomes Ashley McFarland as the new business and industry liaison extension educator.

McFarland brings Minnesota more than 10 years of water-related extension experience in community program development, delivery and support from Iowa, Idaho and Michigan. In her research and extension work she has tackled water-quality challenges facing agriculture, logging and mining industries.

“Ashley brings a fresh intensity and expertise to serving the diversity of Minnesota industries who are impacted by water and water science,” said Minnesota Sea Grant Director John A. Downing. “We think our business and industry stakeholders will benefit from her finely honed, diplomatic and service-oriented approach.”

In this new position, McFarland will work with the public, industry, policymakers, natural resource professionals and Great Lakes researchers to increase cooperation among business and industry organizations toward improving environmental management.

“I am excited to get started and build partnerships,” said McFarland. “The power of Sea Grant extension is that we can tackle problems from many creative angles and harness the power of the collective village to get things done.”

Most recently, McFarland was the coordinator of the Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center. Development of a statewide malting barley research and extension program to supply the growing number of craft breweries was one of the novel projects she led that helped re-establish the relevance of the center.

While working for the University of Idaho Extension, she taught water-quality courses on forest hydrology and river management to professional loggers and miners and developed a citizen science effort to collect basic water-quality data for Idaho streams called IDAH20.

“The mining industry has always been fascinating to me,” said McFarland. “We went to Ely to camp not long after we arrived in Duluth and as we drove through the Iron Range I thought about how excited I am that there’s so much opportunity for interesting mining-related work.”

As the Benewah County Idaho extension educator she developed educational programs focused on agricultural and natural resource industries. She also managed the county extension office including a 4-H program with more than 200 youth and 30 volunteers. 

“I like being able to identify community needs and tackle them in a holistic manner,” she said. Minnesota Sea Grant is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant Program that supports 33 similar programs in coastal states and Puerto Rico and is a statewide program of the University of Minnesota. McFarland starts September 10, 2018 in her Minnesota Sea Grant office on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.

“My family is loving the community even more than we thought we would,” said McFarland. “I love that Duluth is a small-big city, that community parks are so numerous and accessible and that people have been warm and welcoming.”


  • Ashley McFarland, business and industry liaison, Minnesota Sea Grant, 218-726-6840.
  • John Downing, director, Minnesota Sea Grant; professor, Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota Duluth, downing@d.umn.edu, 218-726-8715.
  • Media: Marie Thoms, Communications and Public Relations, Minnesota Sea Grant, methoms@d.umn.edu, 218-726-8710.

Posted on September 10, 2018

This page last modified on September 10, 2018     © 1996 – 2019 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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