ECU News Services


Coast to Coast:
Lannan's Life Revolves Around Environment

By Judy Currin

From the west coast to the east, Marylee Lannan's passion is for earth and sea. Her work and her leisure activities revolve around "this incredible planet we call home," she said.

She came to East Carolina University from Portland, Ore., where she worked in the corporate world and at Portland State University. Before that she worked in Santa Barbara, where she served as an undergraduate adviser in environmental studies at the University of California. Lannan now works as a business services coordinator at the Agromedicine Institute on ECU's west research campus. In that position, she helps to identify and address health and safety interests of the agricultural community.
Marylee Lannan

Her leisure time includes volunteer work at the North Carolina Estuarium, located on the Pamlico River in Washington, N.C. The center invites visitors to explore the ecology of the state's estuaries, particularly the Tar-Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound. The center also informs visitors about threats facing vital coastal rivers and sounds, and the ways humans have used the ecosystem for thousands of years.

Students in Santa Barbara heightened her appreciation for environmental issues. "I also had a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean from my office," Lannan said. A desire to be near her grandchildren spurred Lannan to abandon the west coast and relocate to the east. Then a Sunday afternoon excursion to the Estuarium rekindled her environmental concerns. "I knew right away this was a place I wanted to be,"  Lannan said.

Soon she was serving as a center volunteer, providing support for the admissions desk, gift shop, educational programs and River Roving trips. “One of my favorite parts of volunteering there is watching people’s faces light up when they witness the interactive sculpture upon entering the front lobby,” she said.

The massive sculpture, created with found items, provides a demonstration of connections between the water cycle, the state of North Carolina and the natural environment. "It basically shows the life cycle of a drop of water as it travels from the Piedmont to the coast," Lannan said. Beaufort County artist Whiting Toler created the sculpture.

"I get to meet a lot of people I never would have crossed paths with otherwise," Lannan said. Many volunteers have migrated to North Carolina from the northeast. She has worked with a retired ship captain, teachers and wives of General Motor's engineers.

"The volunteers are an essential part of the Estuarium's operations," she said. The hours she spends there pass quickly.

"I think it's fun," she said. It's all a part of Lannan's efforts to make this planet a better place.


This story appeared originally in the Jan. 29, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at