As a child growing up in Bermuda, Maia McGuire knew how to swim before she could walk and spent every spare moment exploring the ocean’s shore with her father. Now, she will lead UF/IFAS Extension and Florida Sea Grant’s efforts to engage the public and stakeholders on coastal issues around the state.
McGuire’s work with Florida Sea Grant began in 2001, serving as a multi-county UF/IFAS Extension agent in northeast Florida. She added the interim Florida Sea Grant program leader role to her responsibilities in November 2019. Now, in her new role, she dedicates 100% her time to help facilitate Florida Sea Grant-related UF/IFAS Extension programming that reaches regional, state and national audiences.
“Dr. McGuire brings to this position nearly 20 years of experience as an Extension agent, her work as a teacher, and her education in and love for Florida’s coastal environments,” said Sherry Larkin, Florida Sea Grant director. “I am so glad that she has accepted this role and I look forward to growing and strengthening the Florida Sea Grant program with her help.”
“The first thing I want to do is learn even more about the agents, their programing, their challenges and how I can help,” McGuire, UF/IFAS associate program leader for coastal and marine extension and Florida Sea Grant associate director for Extension and education said. “It is a really exciting time as we, together, figure out the new directions we can take Florida Sea Grant in.”
McGuire earned her Ph.D. in marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami in 1997 with a research focus on coral reproduction and her bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1989.
McGuire is a highly awarded professional and brings extensive experience in coastal and marine issues education to this role. In 2005, she was awarded the Marine Science Educator of the Year award by the Florida Marine Science Educators Association. In 2014 she was given the Don Sweat Award by Florida Sea Grant, and in 2015 she was named Conservation Educator of the Year by the Florida Wildlife Federation – just to name a few.
In 2015, McGuire was awarded a NOAA Marine Debris Outreach and Education grant to start the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project. This citizen science project raises awareness of the sources and threats of microplastics in the coastal environment and teaches residents how to reduce their contribution to the plastic problem. The project has grown to include 27 regional coordinators around Florida and has gained over 3,000 pledges from citizens that vow to reduce their plastic waste.
“Florida Sea Grant has one of the top-rated Extension programs nationally. We have to keep trying to find ways to be innovative,” McGuire said. “COVID-19 has really thrown a wrench in how we work and required us to think long term about how we may need to do things differently. Brainstorming ways to think about that and how we can grow is on the front of my mind right now.”