Blue Ambassador of the Year Finalists:
Pamela Brasch - Stuart, Florida
Since her time volunteering at LMC, Pam has been a fierce advocate for our mission. She has been with LMC for over 5 years and has over 900 hrs! A typical day for Pam could be giving a public guided tour. She greets our guests with a warm smile and educates them on our critical mission while also making it fun! One of the best ways she promotes ocean conservation though, is by leading our field trips! Kids from all over come to LMC to learn in a fun and creative way. Kids leave LMC knowing more about helping the environment than ever before in large part because of Pam's dedication. When she is not at LMC she enjoys walking and doing her own beach cleanup every day. Pam is truly an Ocean Ambassador!
Shelby Thomas - Apollo Beach, Florida
Shelby Thomas is a busy young woman. Her passion in helping to protect and preserve ocean ecosystems is evident in the the various entities she volunteers with and the projects she has taken on. Shelby is currently finishing her PhD at the University of Florida. Her work there on scallop and oyster aquaculture and restoration has helped refine the process for not just shellfish but for sea urchins and other species as well. While finishing a PhD may be full time for some, Shelby has taken on other conservation efforts at the same time.
She helped start the 1000 Mermaids project, serving as CEO and working to combine art and artificial reefs in a major restoration effort off Miami Beach. She also founded and serves as the CEO of the Ocean Rescue Alliance, a non-profit organization that is pioneering coral restoration efforts through unique nature based forms and innovative screw in coral plugs. The Ocean Rescue Alliance artificial reefs create complex habitat space, enable species specific restoration and serve as ecotourism destinations that combine art and culture to connect the communities they serve.
Her work at ORA has included developing new tools and techniques for restoration as well as supporting research efforts undertaken by other groups and universities. Shelby has also worked hard to bring the ocean conservation message to non-traditional audiences including crypto and NFT conferences and has spoken at numerous events and panels including sharing the stage with Sylvia Earle at the Resilient Futures symposium.
Shelby also serves on the Board of Directors for the WAV Alliance. As a young woman working in ocean conservation, Shelby serves as a shining role model for other young ocean enthusiasts and shows how hard work and following one's passion can lead to ocean conservation success. Her desire is to make a lasting impact, conserving our environments while also improving peoples lives around the world.
Anesti Vega - Miami, Florida
Anesti Vega is a filmmaker turned ocean scientist and explorer. He is also an avid scuba instructor, where he has trained and certified over 300 students in scuba diving, adaptive diving, and scientific diving—almost 200 funded through full scholarship or subsidies. As a volunteer consultant, he develops scholarships, programming, and inclusive curriculum for organizations and has contributed to the establishment of seven annual scholarships in scuba and scientific diving for people from marginalized communities that wish to pursue work and careers in marine science and conservation. As an educator, he has developed or consulted on programs at nine campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutes, and Tribal Colleges where his focus is on making scientific diving and marine field research more accessible and inclusive.
Furthermore, Mr. Vega serves on, or leads, volunteer diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committees for Diversity In Aquatics, American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) Foundation, and National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) focused on breaking barriers and expanding accessibility to ocean exploration and marine sciences for marginalized communities.
Most recently, Anesti volunteered as a counselor and instructor for Camp Open S.E.A.S. (Science Education and Adaptive Scuba) this past summer in Key Largo. Camp Open S.E.A.S. is a week-long summer event for youth who have disabilities to learn and actively participate in marine sciences and conservation/restoration efforts. He also created and curated content while attuning participants and audiences to the mission; in this case, oceanic accessibility and inclusivity of marine conservation efforts.
Anesti's volunteer efforts in these areas—spreading the marine conservation ethos to people and places historically siloed from this way of life—have been recognized previously with the 2022 President's Award from Diversity In Aquatics, named as the 2021 Sea Hero of the Year by Scuba Diving Magazine, and 2021 Marine Science Educator of the Year by Florida Marine Science Educators Association.