Island Reach

Janis Steele, Ph.D. & Brooks McCutchen, Ph.D.


  The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.

Jacques Yves Cousteau

Our Mission & Commitment

Conservation support services, education and advocacy from ridge to reef & harvester to harvester.

Island Reach is a volunteer project with a long-term commitment to help build biocultural resilience from ridge to reef in the Vanuatu archipelago in Melanesia.   We provide a no-fee, mobile work platform aboard research vessel Llyr, as well as targeted support services, to community projects that seek to protect and revitalize communities while bolstering local capacity for environmental stewardship.

Island Reach offers critical and hard to obtain resources that can act as a force multiplier for local efforts to conserve and build cultural and environmental resilience and expand successful projects. 




We understand that climate change has important connections to local food sovereignty and both biological and cultural diversity.  As conservation workers we study these interactions and seek adaptations, always with an eye on the market forces which shape our interactions with nature.  Please visit this page for a brief essay on the philosophy which drives the Island Reach service mission:



History of the Project

Island Reach is both a public and personal response to collapsing biocultural diversity globally. In 2006, our family-scale forest farm in Massachusetts was in full swing and we were active in educational outreach, speaking widely about food, economies, culture and the environment. At the same time, we were also responding to successive years of biological and climate vectors impacting the forest, culminating in an massive ice storm in 2008 that  damaged or destroyed 1000 producing maple trees at the farm.  As we were experiencing these impacts personally, we were also increasingly aware of escalating crises affecting oceans, as well as economic, climate and population pressures on communities who rely, to a great extent, on the sea for their food and livelihoods. As farmers and social scientists we determined to purposefully launch a ridge-to-reef engagement and began to investigate how we might be of active service in addition to working these conservation themes into our farm's US based direct markets.

In 2011, we purchased the work-yacht Research Vessel Llyr , a 53' rugged steel ketch, with the explicit intent to refit the boat for service. Over the next couple of years, we volunteered, researched, and made passge in the Atlantic, Caribbean and South Pacific, moving crew and ship over 15,000 nautical miles into position for long term service in Vanuatu.

Time and again, we heard from local non-profits, fishers and agroforesters, scientists, educators and community groups of the need for transportation and well equipped, mobile working platforms linking people, materials, and ideas between distant communities across expanses of water.

Island Reach is our practical and targeted response. 

In 2014, we began building partnerships and undertaking service work in Vanuatu. These activities are summarized and introduced here: 


                                                                SUPPORT ISLAND REACH

BSG-Farm's annual forest crop sold through the farm's popular direct markets will meet a portion of Island Reach's operating expenses with our family crew living aboard.  In addition, we are seeking grants, donations and grass roots support. 

The Ocean Foundation  is Island Reach's collaborator and fiscal sponsor and can receive tax-deductible donations on the project's behalf.

Please contact Janis or Brooks at the farmhouse to speak with us. We welcome your questions and guidance and hope you will consider a financial donation to this community effort of any amount and become a friend of Island Reach.

For those of you interested in the possibilties of joining Island Reach aboard Research Vessel Llyr in 2014 or working and learning at BSG Farm we would like to speak with you.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead