2016 Go Blue Awards – Blue Hatchling Finalists






Brooke Welch

High School Intern at Mote Marine Laboratory
September 2013 – Present (3 years)

Served as an educational volunteer to youth and adults in marine science. Experienced hands on research through Epiforms project, marine debris surveys, and Mote’s spotted eagle ray research program. During my second year as an intern, I created a hands on educational research project where students can conduct mock research on a spotted eagle ray. My project idea has been replicated and is being used for marine education in Cuba and Mexico.

My current project is sewing dissectible animals which allows students to conduct mock necropsies on elasmobranchs, sea turtles, and seabirds .

During the internship program I was able to spend two weeks at the Biological Field Station in Bimini, Bahamas learning elasmobranch research techniques.

Director at Sarasota Ocean Preservers
January 2014 – Present (2 years 8 months)
Sarasota Ocean Preservers is a program for youth that combines beach, kayak, and snorkeling cleanups with an emphasis on marine life education.

Team Member at Teen Science Cafe
December 2012 – Present (3 years 9 months)
Florida Teen Science Cafés are free, informal events for teens focusing on marine science organized by Mote High School Interns. Each meeting welcomes a local scientist to share their work with students. Subject matter is geared for 9th–12th grade students.

Honors and Awards
• Extra Mile Award, Keep Sarasota County Beautiful – November 2013
Awarded to one volunteer who went the extra mile in keeping Sarasota County Beautiful.
• Youth Excellence Award, Keep Sarasota County Beautiful – November 2014
Awarded to one youth volunteer for excellence in keeping Sarasota County Beautiful
• Sea Preservation, Keep Sarasota County Beautiful – November 2014
Awarded to Sarasota Ocean Preservers, the organization I formed in 2013, for the groups efforts in removing
marine debris from the beaches in Sarasota County.
• The President’s Volunteer Service Award – February 2015
National award for the volunteer work I did removing marine debris.
• Ocean Pals Junior Dive Training grant, Women Divers Hall of Fame – March 2015
A $1,000 training grant (up to $500 for training and up to $500 for dive equipment) awarded to a deserving
young woman, ages 13-16, who wishes to begin or further her dive education/training.
• Youth Service Award, Keep America Beautiful
National award for volunteer service.
• Advanced Dive Training Grant, Woman Divers Hall of Fame – March 2016
$1,000 training grant (up to $500 for training and up to $500 for dive equipment) awarded to deserving
women diver of any age and background who wish to further their dive education through approved scuba
diving programs beyond the basic certification level.

Volunteer Experience
• Lifeguard at Mote Marine Laboratory – June 2014 – August 2014
Volunteer open-water lifeguard during Mote Summer Camp snorkeling sessions.
• Volunteer at Save Our Seabirds – September 2012 – Present
Assist with data entry, event setup, cleaning, landscape needs, donor registry, baby bird care, bird rescues
• Volunteer at Esperanza Eterna – Pastaza, Ecuador – June 2007 – August 2010
Helped with various social projects including clean water, construction, and community health projects.
• Lifeguard at Camp Sunshine at Sebago Lake, Inc. – July 2016 – Present
Volunteered as lake front/pool lifeguard during Camp Sunshine’s low-grade brain tumor camp session.

• SCUBA open water – PADI
• Lifeguard/AED/CPR – American Red Cross
• SCUBA Advanced Open Water Diver – PADI
• SCUBA Enriched Air Diver – PADI
• SCUBA Rescue Diver – PADI
• SCUBA Digital Underwater Photographer – PADI
• Emergency Oxygen Provider – PADI
• SCUBA Peak Performance Buoyancy – PADI
• SCUBA Night Diver – PADI

Skills & Expertise
• Marine Conservation
• Marine Biology
• Research
• Community Outreach
• Underwater Photography
• Lifeguarding
• Scuba Diving
• Microsoft Office
• Microsoft Excel
• Fundraising
• Event Planning
• Social Media
• Wildlife Rehabilitation
• Education
• State College of Florida-Manatee-Sarasota, Dual Enrollment, 2014 – 2017
Grade: 4.0 gpa (unweighted)

kayaking, SCUBA, marine biology, photography, surfing, SUP, flying, snorkeling, traveling

I have had the pleasure of knowing Brooke Welch for four years in my capacity as Senior Coordinator of Digital Programs at Mote Marine Laboratory. Brooke is currently a member of our High School Intern program and has served as an active volunteer here at Mote over the years. Since September 2013, Brooke has volunteered over 750 hours to Mote Marine Laboratory’s Community Outreach, Spotted Eagle Ray Conservation Research and Education programs.

As her mentor and supervisor, I can attest that Brooke has a great passion for marine science, education and conservation. Brooke’s passion has led her to establish the Sarasota Ocean Preservers, a local cleanup organization for youth that focuses on marine debris removal, ocean education and community outreach. Not only does Brooke organize and lead important cleanup efforts, she engages hobbyists in an effort to bridge their interests with ocean conservation. Furthermore, she has begun  to catalog the marine species in the area in hopes to correlate seasonal migrations with human interactions and habitat impacts. As a direct result of her work, Brooke has been invited to serve as a guest speaker at the annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, where she inspires and educates hundreds of young ocean enthusiasts each year.

Brooke is a committed and enthusiastic young woman. Not only has she founded her own community engagement program, she has also gone above and beyond to achieve certifications in advanced SCUBA Diving, Lifeguarding, First Aid, and CPR. She has demonstrated strong leadership skills and maturity, so much so that we have sought her out to serve as a Volunteer and Lifeguard during Mote Marine Laboratory’s Summer Camp programs. She constantly astounds me with her determination,
commitment and hard work ethic at such a young age.

I strongly recommend Brooke Welch for the Blue Ambassador of the Year Award. Brooke’s combination of volunteerism, community engagement and marine conservation make her an ideal candidate for this award. This prestigious recognition will contribute to her impressive accolades and resume, helping her to achieve her goals of becoming a marine scientist. You will not find a more worthy recipient. Her demonstrated commitment and vision have made a positive impact on our community in Sarasota County and at Mote Marine Laboratory. We are proud to be part of Brooke’s journey and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for her.

Cori McWilliams

Cori McWilliams has grown up surrounded by people who believe that education and hands-on experience are the keys to creating a fine marine conservationist, and in turn she utilizes that same methodology with others.

By age 4, Cori developed a passion for sea turtle conservation, and was sharing her knowledge to entire grade levels of students by writing and presenting a sea turtle conservation program by the time she was in second grade. Since that time, she has shared this program with hundreds of school students.

Cori understands that conservation is a collaborative effort, and has volunteered with many organizations, including:
• Environmental Learning Center. Cori works on a regular basis as a touch tank volunteer (introducing and teaching guests about Indian River Lagoon indigenous species), served as Day Camp Counselor for the past 2 summers, was chosen for and participated in Junior Nature Interpreter program, and works at their various annual events.
• Ocean Conservancy / Keep Indian River Beautiful – This year will mark Cori’s third year as a Site Captain responsible for coordinating the local participation in the International Coastal Cleanup.
• Sea Turtle Conservancy – Cori trained and successfully completed her first season as a Sea Turtle Walk Scout, responsible for finding/identifying turtles and answering questions from attendees at sea turtle nesting walks. Approximate total number of guests: 375.
• Barrier Island Center – Cori’s involvement over the past 4 years has included hosting children’s activities, working at annual fundraiser and live turtle releases, and assisting with school and special event programs.
• Indian River County Sea Turtle Program – Cori is responsible for answering questions from sea turtle nest inventory attendees. Approximate total number of guests to date: 150.
• Hands Across the Sand – As the organizer for local event, Cori was responsible for all aspects of coordinating event.
• Sea Turtle Preservation Society Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program – For the past three years, Cori has attended training and been on FWC permit to tend to distressed post-hatchling sea turtles.
• Wyland Foundation – Cori assists Wyland and staff at the annual Mote Eco-Festival.
• Youth Ocean Conservation Summit – In addition to attending summit annually, Cori has been a guest speaker on topic “You’re Never Too Young to Make a Difference in Conservation”.
• Florida Marine Science Educators Association’s Annual Conference – Cori was a panel member on discussion topic of effectively connecting youth and teachers.
• Sea Urchins Magazine – Cori contributed a two-page spread about sea turtle conservation.
• Girl Scouts – Cori is currently working on a project to bring “Blue Tubes”, dispensers of bags used for beach debris collection, to beach park locations in Indian River County in conjunction with the Girl Scout Silver Award Program.

Cori is the Founder and Program Coordinator of Kids for the Sea conservation club.
• To date, the club has received over $500 in grants, utilizing the funds to expand a portable re-usable debris collection container project in conjunction with the “Stow It Don’t Throw It” Program and Mote Aquarium. Cori coordinated collection of containers via donation solicitation from local individuals/businesses, and worked with Environmental Learning Center and Stella Maris Environmental Research to co-host workshops in which over 100 children [including day campers and Boys and Girls Club members] and adults were taught about the effects of marine pollution and then able to assemble and keep their own debris containers. In total, over 700 debris containers were distributed, recipients including: Keep Indian River Beautiful, Barrier Island Center (some for ongoing use in their school education programs [serving approximately 300 students last school year] and beach clean-ups, and others given to summer day campers), Stella Maris Environmental Research, Kids for the Sea beach clean-up attendees, and local fisherman and beachgoers.
• In just the first six months of 2016, Cori hosted beach clean-ups in which 74 participants removed 248 pounds of trash
from Indian River and Brevard Counties’ beaches.

Cori continues to expand her impact in the world of marine conservation, and is a true inspiration to everyone she meets! The
encouraging words of “you can do this, too” she speaks to young children, the conservationists of tomorrow, will forever stay
with them and inspire them to do the same!

Sophie Allen







Sophie Allen resume 3 (2)


I would like to nominate the deserving Sophie Allen for the 2016 Blue Hatchling Youth Award.  Sophie is fifteen years old, a past Blue Hatchling Finalist and a sophomore at Dreyfoos School of the Arts this year.  In addition to her musical interests that she pursues at Dreyfoos, growing up in Palm Beach County has shaped Sophie into a passionate ocean lover.  She not only seeks enjoyment from the ocean as a certified scuba diver, kayaker and stand up paddle boarder, but she also works hard to educate herself on marine issues and volunteers her time to engage in marine conservation activities.

Sophie is entering her fourth year of active community service as a Junior Friend of MacArthur Beach State Park where she attends monthly meetings and volunteers regularly in a variety of community service activities from removing invasive plant species to restoring the natural beach dunes.  As a Junior Friend, Sophie volunteers in MacArthur Beach State Park’s annual Naturescape Festival where she helps with educational activities oriented towards teaching younger kids about the ocean.  This past spring Sophie was invited to travel and attend the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans to present a science poster on behalf of the Junior Friends of MacArthur Beach for OSM’s K-12 Youth Poster Symposium.  Her poster presentation highlighted Junior Friends’ experiment on growing mediums for Sea Oats and their dune restoration efforts.

Sophie’s passion for the ocean does not limit itself to community service.  In recent years, she has used her considerable talents to create marine conservation videos.  In 2015, her short film “Shark Souvenirs” was accepted as a finalist in the 2015 Beneath the Waves-Youth Making Ripples student Film Festival and she received special recognition by Shark4kids for her video’s shark conservation message.  In 2016, her video “Little Hope Spots” built upon Sylvia Earle’s idea of marine hope spots and featured the conservation efforts of Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resource Management in restoring the Lake Worth Lagoon and providing artificial reefs to increase marine biodiversity.  “Little Hope Spots” won the Best Scientific Message category for High School in the 2016 Youth Making Ripples film festival.  Her video then went on to take 2nd place in the 2016 National Ocean Science Bowl video contest.  It can be viewed at their link http://nosb.org/compete/nosb-video-contest/2016-video-contest-winners/

As a winner in the 2016 Youth Making Ripples Film Festival, Sophie won the opportunity to participate in a research expedition with the University of Miami’s Shark Research & Conservation program.  This shark tagging cruise marked Sophie’s third volunteer research cruise.  In addition to shark tagging field work, where Sophie has had an opportunity to work alongside UM graduate students in collecting valuable shark data, Sophie was also asked to help present on behalf of Youth Making Ripples at this year’s National Marine Educators Association’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida, as a student representative.  Her job was to present a student perspective to the teachers attending this national conference this summer.  She also volunteered and presented an additional poster on behalf of Youth Making Ripples at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans and has been a co-presenter at Palm Beach County School District’s Learn Green Conference, as well as the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit at Mote Marine Laboratory.  Recently, Sophie applied and has been accepted to present at the Bright STaRS K-12 Poster Session at this year’s AGU (American Geophysical Union) Conference in San Francisco where she will continue to highlight marine conservation issues.

When Sophie is not making marine conservation videos or presenting at conferences, she can be found volunteering locally in such events as the annual International Coastal Cleanup, or dressed up as the “Bag Monster” to draw awareness to the dangers of plastics in our oceans at such events as the Lake Worth Lagoon Fest.  Sophie co-hosts the Bag Monster of SoFlo Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BagMonstserofSoFlo/

While posing as a Bag Monster is a low-tech, but effective approach to saving the oceans, Sophie’s interest in the oceans and science has led her to learn about ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) and participate in MATE’s Florida Regional ROV Competition after building an ROV with other students. Through MATE’s (Marine Advanced Technology Education) competition platform, Sophie has gained a greater awareness of how technology is being used to study and monitor the world’s oceans.  She hopes to possibly pursue an ocean engineering degree in the future to help develop and improve technology that will enable scientists to continue to explore and monitor the world’s oceans.  She has helped promote ocean technology and ROV building at Lantana’s World Ocean Day activities and by mentoring younger students. It is for all of the above reasons that it is without reservation that I nominate Sophie Allen for the Blue Hatchling of the Year Award.  Thank you.

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