By Kate Schimel
Tidewater Oyster Growers Association (TOGA) announced the establishment of a graduate student fellowship endowment at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) last week. The TOGA Fellowship Endowment is inspired by and in honor of VIMS extension agent Mike Oesterling and TOGA founder and former President Jackie Partin.
“Mike and Jackie stand out as two exceptional contributors to TOGA’s sustained growth and success over the years,” says current TOGA president Dave Turney. Between them, Mike and Jackie have contributed nearly three decades of service to TOGA.
Oesterling, an aquaculture specialist and member of the Virginia Sea Grant Marine Extension Program, has worked as a liaison between VIMS and TOGA since 1998. He has helped organize the Master Oyster Gardeners courses and provided crucial support for TOGA events. He is also an active member of the TOGA board.
When Oesterling retired this spring after more than 30 years of service to VIMS, Partin suggested that TOGA make a contribution to an already existing fellowship at VIMS. Turney says, “The TOGA Executive Board was fully behind this but had some other, even bolder, ideas.”
The bolder idea was to establish a new Fellowship to honor not only Oesterling, but Partin as well. Partin, a former researcher herself, is one of the three original TOGA founders and President Emeritus of the organization. Says Turney, “Jackie is the only one of the three who has remained an active part of TOGA leadership since the beginning.”
The “Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association (TOGA) Fellowship Endowment” will support one or more VIMS graduate students. TOGA Fellows will further oyster and shellfish research or conduct other studies that contribute to the wider ecological restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The initial contribution for the fellowship endowment was provided in part by the Northern Neck Oyster Gardeners Association, which disbanded and joined with TOGA in 2007.
TOGA educates the public about oyster gardening and promotes the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay through oyster cultivation. Learn more about TOGA online.