2017 Go Blue Awards Finalists

Congratulations to all of this year’s finalists!
The winners will be announced at the Ninth Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon,
being held at PGA National Resort & Spa on Friday, October 27, 2017.


Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award Finalists:

The recipient of the Eleanor Fletcher Award exemplifies a lifelong, extraordinary commitment to marine conservation education through their work or volunteer activities similar to Loggerhead Marinelife Center Founder Eleanor Fletcher.

Ted Turner (2017 award recipient)

If Eleanor Fletcher were reading this nomination for The Eleanor Fletcher Award, she would understand intuitively why Ted Turner deserves it.  Turner’s overarching commitment to stewardship of all Earth’s resources, by definition, makes marine conservation part of his extraordinary legacy.

Ted Turner has a long track record of environmental activism. America’s most famous media entrepreneur has put more than his money into environmental causes. He’s put his head and heart into it. He has modeled for others how to communicate environmental challenges. And his persuasive personality has brought others – activists, politicians, philanthropists, everyday folks and their kids – into environmentalism.

Through three decades of audacious and tenacious leadership, Ted has accelerated marine, land, and species conservation; supported research to shape environmental policy and practice; and drawn early attention to climate change. Turner deserves the Eleanor Fletcher Award for the following lifetime accomplishments:

Environmental education: Ted understood that people don’t become environmentalists overnight. They must develop respect for our oceans, lands, and natural resources from early on in order to support policies for a sustainable planet as adults. Ted made environmental education a focus.  In 1989, he created and aired an animated television series, Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Featuring voices of stars such as Whoopi Goldberg, Meg Ryan, Sting and LaVar Burton, the shows engaged children in environmental challenges through storytelling.  (Still shown on Mother Nature Network and video games).

Turner established the Captain Planet Foundation that encourages schools and youth groups around the world to apply for seed money to “grow” their environmental projects. The Foundation has funded more than 1800 projects. It launched Planeteer Clubs in schools and “Learning Gardens” in Georgia and California. The Turner Foundation continues to fund environmental stewardship through myriad youth projects.

Bold environmental leadership: Ted created the Turner Foundation in 1990 to prevent “damage to the natural systems – water, air, and land – on which all life depends.” Since 1990, he has given more than $350 million to environmental causes, including $17 million to the League of Conservation Voters and $2 million to create the Turner Endangered Species Fund. Many endangered species organizations, land trusts, conservation societies, and the Environmental Defense Fund are recipients of donations.

Bold philanthropic leadership: In 1997, Turner pledged $1 billion to launch the United Nations Foundation. The ambitious goal: build public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems. In 1998, he made Colorado Senator Tim Wirth, an environmentalist and early climate change expert, its first director. The Foundation maintains an environmental focus: it will work with California Governor Jerry Brown and others representing municipalities at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit to fulfill the Paris agreement.

After making that extraordinary pledge, Turner said, “I was putting other rich people on notice that I would be calling on them to be more generous.” Call on them he did: Bill Gates and Warren Buffet acknowledged Turner’s example in launching The Giving Pledge in 2010. Signatories to the pledge commit to giving back a majority of their wealth. To date, there are 170 pledgers. Turner has passed his philanthropic passion and priorities to second and third generation Turners: The Turner Foundation is governed by Ted and his five children – all committed environmentalists.

Conservation of land and native species: Some wealthy people buy boats, planes or paintings. Turner buys land to preserve it. He is the second largest individual land holder in North America. Turner Enterprises, Inc. manages lands in ten states and in Argentina “in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner while promoting the conservation of native species.”

Fortitude in face of great challenges:  Ted views nuclear war and climate change as the planet’s gravest threats. He has said they can “seem overwhelming, and when they do, I remind myself of a conversation with Jacques Cousteau. I asked him if he ever got discouraged that the problems he was working on were insurmountable. He looked at me and said, ‘Ted, it could be that these problems can’t be solved, but what can men of good conscience do but keep trying until the very end?’ At that moment, his very words inspired me to want to do even more.”

I count myself among those inspired by Ted Turner. When he was Chairman, Time Warner, I was running TIME For Kids. Ted received the magazine along with dozens of other Time Inc. titles. When we ran stories on environmental issues, kudos arrived from Ted. We launched a special series, Heroes for the Planet, and oceanographer Sylva Earle was featured in its first cover story. Ted sent a handwritten note: “Inspiring! Kids need to learn about people like her. Keep it up! And please send 50 copies to my office.”

If people don’t automatically think “oceans” when they think of Ted Turner it’s for a reason. For decades, his goal has been nothing less than saving the planet.

More information:
Ted Turner is an American media entrepreneur, environmentalist, and philanthropist.

As a business leader, he is best known as founder of the Cable News Network (CNN), the first 24-hour cable news channel that transformed the way the world gets its news.

As a philanthropist, he is best known for early support for environmental causes, including fighting climate change. In pledging $1 billion to the UN to create the UN Foundation, he inspired others who had amassed great wealth to pledge to give back a large share of their net worth to support causes for good.

Turner ‘s media empire began with his father’s billboard business. He took over Turner Outdoor Advertising in 1963, at the age of 24 after his father’s death. It was worth $1 million.

In 1970, he bought and the Atlanta UHF station that launched Turner Broadcasting System, pioneering the “superstation” concept in cable television. In 1976, Turner bought two sports teams, the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks, in part to provide programming for his superstation, beaming Braves games into homes across North America, making the Braves a household name. He launched and aired the charitable Goodwill Games.

In 1979, he formed Cable News Network (CNN) a 24-hour hour news service that revolutionized news media. CNN became the source of breaking news when it covered the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

In 1988, he launched Turner Network Television, showing older movies and television shows, eventually adding original programs and newer reruns. In 1992 he launched Cartoon Network. Both launches were supported by strategic content acquisitions.

In 1990, he created the Turner Foundation to focus his philanthropy on environmental issues such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and sustainable population growth. That same year, he created Captain Planet, an environmental superhero. He produced two Captain Planet TV series to help children develop environmental stewardship.

In fall 1996, Turner merged the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. with Time Warner, Inc. Turner was made vice chairman and head of Time Warner and Turner’s cable networks division. In 2000, Time Warner merged with AOL, widely regarded as a disaster. Turner resigned as vice chairman in 2003 and from the board of directors in 2006.

In September 1997, Turner announced a $1 billion gift to create the United Nations Foundation, a public charity to broaden domestic support for the UN. He called it an “investment in the future of humanity.”

Today, approaching 80, continues his philanthropic efforts. He is Chairman of Turner Enterprises, Chairman of the Turner Foundation, and Chairman of the United Nations Foundation board of directors. For more, see https://givingpledge.org/Pledger.aspx?id=302


Dr. Wallace J Nichols

Dr. Nichols who goes by J, is creating change and raising awareness throughout the world. Personally for us, speaking on behalf of the WOW (Wild Over Wildlife) group, he has been an incredible inspiration to our ocean efforts. When we discovered the Blue Mind book, we couldn’t believe we haven’t already read it. J spends most of his life teaching about the science of being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do. Through the Blue Mind, he has many supporters that can’t wait to help him spread this message. People from all over the globe are enjoying water of all kinds and sharing it on social media raising awareness about the importance of water and connecting this message to conservation efforts as we know the famous quote by Jacques Cousteau,  “people protect what they love” and in this case what they need on so many levels! 100 Days of Blue Campaign is going on until October for surging out the love and protection of our waters for 100 days straight hashtagging #100DaysOfBlue, you can see posts from all over the beautiful Earth!

Dr. Nichols started out as a Turtle Biologist and still does much work around the globe working with groups, and organizations on behalf of turtle education, awareness, and protection. Dr. Nichols started the Blue Marbles campaign, which is another very clever way of including people from around the globe, the project is to show gratitude and pass blue marbles along which symbolizes how our water planet looks from space, (early astronauts said on a mission that we look like a little blue marble). They have been placed in the hands of some many great people around the world, even the Dalai Lama has one!  He has been featured on many TV spots, magazines around the world, TED talk, among other things and he is still always appreciative and humbled by peoples support and interest in his work. Dr. Nichols has been such a great addition to the WOW group and I’m sure you will agree that he is very deserving of an award at the 2017 Go Blue Awards Luncheon!

More Information:
Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols, called “Keeper of the Sea” by GQ Magazine and “a visionary” by Outside Magazine is an innovative, silo-busting, entrepreneurial scientist, movement maker, renown marine biologist, voracious Earth and idea explorer, wild water advocate, bestselling author, sought after lecturer, and fun-loving Dad. He also likes turtles (a lot).

In 2017 Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama presented the Champion of Change Award at World Oceans Festival at Governor’s Island, New York to Dr. Nichols.

“I’m delighted to present this important award to someone who shares my passion and emotional attachment to the health of our oceans”, said PM Bainimarama.

Nichols’ experiences as a field research scientist, government consultant, founder and director of numerous businesses and nonprofit organizations, teacher, mentor, parent, and advisor all support his quest to build a stronger and more diverse blue movement.

Formerly a Senior Scientist at Ocean Conservancy, Nichols holds a B.A. degree from DePauw University in Biology and Spanish, an M.E.M. degree in Natural Resource Economics and Policy from Duke University, and a Ph.D. degree in Wildlife Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. He received a Bradley Fellowship to study the impacts of sea level rise at Duke University Marine Lab, a Marshall Fellowship to study at the University of Arizona, and a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico marine station in Mazatlan. In 2010 he delivered the commencement address at DePauw University where he also received an honorary doctorate in science. In 2011 he was inducted as a Fellow National member of the Explorers ClubIn 2014 he received the University of Arizona’s Global Achievement Award.

He has authored more than 200 scientific papers, technical reports, book chapters, and popular publications; lectured in more than 30 countries; and appeared in hundreds of print, film, radio, and television media outlets including NPR, BBC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Time, Newsweek, GQ, Outside Magazine, Elle, Vogue, Fast Company, Surfer Magazine, Scientific American, and New Scientist, among others.

His research interests span ocean and aquatic ecosystems, migratory species, marine protected areas, fisheries management, and plastic pollution with special emphasis on building new action networks and developing novel interdisciplinary solutions, sometimes involving so-called enemies. He takes a slow, collaborative approach with leaders in businesses, government, non-profits, and academia to inspire a deeper connection with nature and inventive approaches to pressing issues ranging from supplies of fresh water to improved hospice care for our aging population.

His current focus is on what he refers to as Blue Mind, a powerful new universal story of water. In this story society accurately describes all of the physical, ecological, economic, cognitive, emotional, psychological, and social benefits of healthy oceans and waterways. By connecting neuroscientists and psychologists with aquatic experts and artists to ask and answer exciting new questions his work is transforming many sectors, including: health and well-being; education and parenting; arts, architecture and design; real estate and urban planning; travel and leisure; and sports and recreation.

His book Blue Mind, published in summer 2014 by Little, Brown & Company, quickly became a national bestseller and has been translated to numerous languages and inspired a wave of media and practical application.

J. knows that inspiration comes sometimes through adventures, or simply by walking and talking. Other times through writing, images, and art. Science and knowledge can also stoke our fires. But he also knows that what really moves people is feeling part of and touching something bigger than ourselves. At every turn he encourages people to disconnect from the grid and reconnect with themselves, those they love, and the special places they care about.

His research, expeditions, and work as a guide have taken him to coasts and waterways across North, Central and South America, to Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe where he continually finds that the emotional connection to waters of all kinds—rather than force or financial gain—is what keeps his colleagues and collaborators working hard to understand and restore our blue planet.

J. is currently a Senior Fellow at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies’ Center for the Blue Economy, a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and co-founder of Ocean Revolution, an international network of young ocean advocates, SEEtheWILD, a conservation travel network, Grupo Tortuguero, an international sea turtle conservation network, and The Blue Mind Fund a global campaign to reconnect people to water.

He advises a motivated group of international graduate students and serves as an advisor to numerous non-profit boards and committees as part of his commitment to building a stronger, more progressive and connected environmental community.

J. lives with his partner Dana, two daughters and some cats, dogs and chickens on California’s SLOWCOAST, a rural stretch of coastal mountains where organic strawberries rule, mountain lions roam and their motto is “In Slow We Trust”. The Nichols chose to settle down in this area after trekking the entire 1,800 kilometer coast from Oregon to Mexico. “We liked it here”, Nichols said.

Dr. James (Buddy) Powell

Buddy spent his childhood watching manatees in Crystal River, Florida, a spring system of critical conservation importance to manatees. His fascination for manatees grew while he was a teenager and was “contracted” to help Jacques Cousteau study them in Crystal River. Today, Buddy still leads research and educational expeditions to Crystal River, which has been preserved as a protected area for manatees and other species, thanks in part to Buddy’s tireless devotion to protecting this keystone species.

Forty years after Buddy first discovered manatees, he created the Sea to Alliance in 2008 with a group of like-minded experts and advisers to forge a new approach to coastal conservation. S2S Alliance, a Florida-based 501(c)(3) non-profit, employs a two-tiered approach to conservation — scientific research and public education. Today, S2S Alliance has established operations not only in the United States, but in Belize and Cuba and possibly one day in Africa – all countries with high numbers of manatees.

The dedicated team at S2S Alliance works with all three species of manatees, conducting research and conservation activities resulting in positive impacts to manatees. They use satellite tagging, aerial surveys, photo identification and other tools and use sound scientific data to help ensure the survival of manatees around the world. This data is informing natural resource managers about critical habitats for manatees, such as springs and other warm water sources, which manatees need to survive.

S2S doesn’t limit its attention to just manatees, but also to the conservation of other flagship species, such as sea turtles and right whales, to ensure greater protection for the species themselves and for the sensitive habitats these animals rely on around the world.

Buddy’s work is inspirational. He lectures, writes and travels the world to educate and inspire individuals (and countries) to take care of its animals and their environment. One important person that Buddy met and has influenced was an 11 year old young Cuban boy named Jamal Galves. Buddy was heading out on tagging expedition in Cuba when Jamal asked if he could volunteer. Today, Jamal is S2S Alliance’s field assistant in Cuba and Jamal was recently honored with the Meritorious Service Award from the Governor-General of Belize, in recognition of his dedication to conserving the manatee population there.

Just as has been done here in the United States, S2S Alliance’s work in Belize and Cuba has helped provide vital information on the manatee population’s status, and what measures and efforts still need to be taken to ensure manatees continue to exist.

As Buddy has said, ““I’ve always believed that when the marine environment is healthy, the health of humans benefits — from the fish we eat to the waters our children play in.”

As responsible stewards of our planet S2S Alliance exists because it recognizes that endangered and threatened species and habitats have intrinsic value in our world, and thriving and healthy ecosystems are linked to the health and well-being of humans.  By focusing on the conservation of keystone marine species, S2S Alliance is able to garner protection for the larger habitats in which they reside. Healthy waterways benefit coastal communities ecologically, economically, and physically. Their work far surpasses single species conservation. Through victories in conserving key flagship species, they are safeguarding coastal habitats and ultimately human livelihoods and health.

More Information:
• Ph.D., University of Cambridge, Zoology, 1998
• Masters of Marine Affairs, University of Washington, 1983, Marine Affairs and Resource Management
• Bachelor of Science, University of Florida, 1978, Wildlife Biology

For more than 40 years, Dr. James “Buddy” Powellhas worked to conserve manatees and other endangered species around the world and his efforts have resulted in coastal protected areas in Florida, West Africa, Central America, and now Cuba. His approach integrates science and education to unlock solutions to conservation issues.

A native Floridian, in the 1970s Buddy worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a biologist and manatee specialist. In 1986, he moved to West Africa where he studied manatees and forest elephants for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and was pivotal in establishing several coastal protected areas. He and his wife, Maureen, moved to Belize in the 1990s where they managed WCS’s Glover’s Reef Marine Research Station. They then returned to Florida where Buddy administered Florida’s research program on marine mammals and sea turtles for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In 2001, he became Vice President for Aquatic Programs at Wildlife Trust.

In 2008, Buddy co-founded Sea to Shore Alliance. The organization was created to form a partnership of scientists and citizen volunteers with the expertise, passion, and vision to help reverse the degradation of our aquatic coastal environment and loss of species and diversity. “We created Sea to Shore Alliance to fulfill three primary objectives: better protect endangered aquatic species using science, better awareness, and training conservationists.  We maintain focus on our mission by limiting the need for infrastructure and we achieve our mission cost effectively by minimizing the administrative burden as much as possible”, Buddy shared. “We are a small, nimble and lean organization with a dedicated, trained staff. The results of our work and efforts are having an impact. Sea to Shore is quickly becoming recognized as a respected, objective and valuable resource for wildlife managers, educators, stakeholders and agencies involved with protecting our coastal species and habitats.”

Buddy was the recipient of the prestigious Pew Award in Marine Conservation in 2000, has been featured on “Champions of the Wild” and National Geographic’s “Wild Chronicles” documentaries, and has been honored with multiple awards and certificates. Buddy has authored two books, numerous scientific publications, and popular articles.

Executive Director Comments:
“We created Sea to Shore Alliance to fulfill three primary objectives: better protect endangered aquatic species using science, better awareness and training conservationists, we maintain focus on our mission by limiting the need for infrastructure and we achieve our mission as cost effectively by minimizing administrative burden as much as possible. We are a small, nimble and lean organization with a dedicated, trained staff. The results of our work and efforts are having an impact. Sea2Shore is quickly becoming recognized as a respected, objective and valuable resource for wildlife managers, educators, stakeholders and agencies involved with protecting our coastal species.”  (James “Buddy” Powell)


John Reynolds

John Reynolds graduated Cum Laude with Departmental Honors in Biology from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) in 1974.  He received his M.S. and Ph. D. degrees in Biological Oceanography from University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in 1977 and 1980, respectively.

He was employed at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL from 1980-2001, where he served as Professor of Marine Science and Biology and Chairman of the Natural Sciences Collegium; he was integral in establishing the college’s renowned marine science major and remains the only Eckerd faculty member to receive all three of the College’s faculty excellence awards for teaching, leadership, and scholarship.

In 1989, Reynolds became a member of the Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals for the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, the federal agency with oversight for all research and management of marine mammals in the United States. In 1990, he became Chairman of the Committee of Scientific Advisors, and in 1991, he was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve as Chairman of the Marine Mammal Commission. He led that agency through mid-2010 under four different administrations, and in 2010, the agency’s accomplishments were recognized by a distinguished service award by the international Society for Conservation Biology.

Since 2001, Reynolds has been a Senior Scientist for Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, FL, where he has served as Director of the International Consortium for Marine Conservation and Director of the Center for Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Research.

From 2001-2008, he was co-Chair of the IUCN Sirenian Specialist Group, and from 2006-2008, he served as President of the International Society for Marine Mammalogy.  Recently he has worked with the United Nations Environment Programme to develop and implement a Caribbean-wide Marine Mammal Action Plan.

In recognition of his long-term research and conservation efforts with Alaskan marine mammals and environmental issues, he was given an Eskimo name: Emuqtannee (swimming walrus).  Reynolds is a member of Phi Beta Kappa; has been nominated for international awards for his accomplishments in conservation and science; and has published approximately 320 books, papers, and abstracts.

In addition to his many career achievements, John Reynolds is an exceptional man.  He has mentored hundreds of young scientists over his career, which has allowed him to share his passion for conservation with future generations.  He is a kind soul and values the friendships that have been created through the several decades of collaboration.

On a more personal note, John has been a mentor to me over the past 10 years.  His patience and guidance has been instrumental in furthering my career. He asks great questions and is thoughtful with his answers.  He is hard on the issue, yet easy on the people.  For all of these reasons, I wholeheartedly nominate Dr. John Reynolds for the Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award.

Blue Ambassador of the Year Finalists:

The recipient of the Blue Ambassador of the Year Award exemplifies significant local contributions in marine conservation through volunteer-related activities.

Linda Cabot

Linda Cabot credits a lifetime of sailing for her love affair with the ocean. Feeling a deep concern for the health and future of our seas, she embarked on a sailing trip with her daughters in 2011 to create a documentary about environmental issues impacting the Gulf of Maine. This film, From the Bow Seat, continues to appear on Maine Public Television and serves as a resource for educators.

Producing the documentary engaged Linda and her daughters in a way that articles, textbooks, and lectures could not. Realizing the power of creative media to educate, inspire, and activate younger generations, Linda founded Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that motivates young people to become ocean caretakers through education and engagement with the arts, science, and advocacy.

Bow Seat’s signature initiative – the annual Ocean Awareness Student Contest – challenges middle and high schoolers to explore human impacts on ocean health through visual art, film, poetry, and prose. Nearly 10,000 teenagers worldwide have participated since the Contest launched in 2012, and more than $100,000 in scholarships have been awarded. In 2017, Bow Seat received entries from 63 countries and 48 U.S. states. The students’ creations demonstrate how the arts are a powerful tool that taps into human emotions and speaks to personal beliefs, which is necessary to drive a widespread cultural shift toward one that values the health of our coastal and marine ecosystems.

How do the nominee’s efforts directly or indirectly benefit marine life and ocean conservation?
Linda believes that students who learn by creating experience deeper knowledge and longer-lasting behavior change. Through her work with Bow Seat, Linda is engaging a new generation of ocean stewards who recognizes the challenges facing our blue planet and is motivated to take action and find creative solutions.

Besides hosting the annual Contest, Bow Seat promotes ocean conservation by sponsoring and participating in initiatives such as the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Florida, Healthy Ocean Hill Day in D.C., the High School Marine Science Symposium in Boston, and PangeaSeed Foundation’s international Sea Walls public art festivals. Bow Seat also provides classroom resources on ocean pollution topics and forges purposeful partnerships with like-minded organizations – such as Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, and Seacoast Science Center – to maximize efforts to protect the future of our oceans.

How have the contributions of the nominee been an inspiration or example to others?
Linda recognizes that youth are enthusiastic, energetic, and optimistic – and when they are empowered, they can do amazing things. She aims to instill knowledge, curiosity, and ultimately stewardship of coastal and ocean ecosystems in young students.

Contest participants are often learning about the ocean for the first time: “I could no longer ignore what was going on in my community. This new knowledge changed how I see the way that I live, work, and interact with the environment.”

Students reflect on how participating in the Contest shapes their attitudes about their own power to affect change: “As I began writing, I realized that maybe my writing can be used for something besides ‘just winning a contest.’ I can use my abilities and interests to make an impact, regardless of my age. The ‘I’m just one person so I can’t make a difference’ mindset is really dangerous and unfortunately prevalent, so I hope to show others through this piece that people can make a difference by themselves.”

What is the nominee’s history of commitment and accomplishment?
As an endorsement of Linda’s work, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently awarded Bow Seat a grant to launch the Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition, which challenges students to carry out a campaign that educates the public about marine debris and stimulates behavior change and action.

Linda is a Board Member of Women Working for Oceans and a trustee of the New England Aquarium. She is a lead donor of the Aquarium’s new Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, a scientific endeavor focusing on fisheries conservation and aquaculture solutions, marine mammal research and conservation, habitat and ecosystem health, and marine animal health.

Demonstrating her commitment to environmental education, Linda was a primary financial contributor of the Cape Eleuthera Institute’s Anderson-Cabot Hall for Graduate Studies, which allows the best and brightest local Bahamian and international graduate students to pursue careers in the marine sciences. She also sponsored the Linda N. Cabot Science Symposium at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, which focused on important new research on the changing nature of the world’s oceans and the questions that arise from that change.

In 2017, Linda received the Gulf of Maine Council’s Visionary Award, which recognizes innovation, creativity, and commitment to marine protection by those who are making a difference to the health of the Gulf of Maine.

Jolyn Landrie

Jolyn Landrie is my nomination for the Blue Ambassador of the Year.  She has a 20 year background in Volunteer work, starting her own not for profit initiatives – Waterway Clean-Up Project, cleaning trash from the beaches and parks in FL, and just lives her life by leaving the world better than she found it, every single day.  You can see the work that she does by viewing her Instagram page at @jolynlandrie.  Every day, she saves an animal from peril, caused by human beings.  She has 10 years of Veterinary technician experience and her true calling is helping animals.  She tries to educate the staff of the different resorts in Ft. Lauderdale about the importance of not leaving chairs on the beach, picking up what you bring to the beach, and how detrimental these activities can be to the plight of the sea turtles.

This usually falls on deaf ears, but she keeps trying EVERY DAY. She has pulled fishing hooks out of turtles mouths, helped them get out of fishing nets, and helped clear the paths to make it easier for baby turtles to reach the ocean many times.  Broward county employees have thanked her for her assistance in Markham Park.  She has also started an initiative with local restaurants to ban plastic straws and single use plastic of any kind.  She is one of a kind and the world is a better place because she is in it.

Carl Stearns

I am nominating Carl Stearns for the Blue Ambassador of the Year Award for his long standing support of marine conservation in Palm Beach County Florida.  For over four (4) years Carl has served as the Blue Friends Society Beach Clean Up Captain at Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) and he has significantly contributed to the protection of sea turtles, their sensitive habitat, and the beautification of our community.

In addition to logging 1,805 hours as a LMC Rehabilitation Volunteer, Carl has graciously served as the Blue Friends Society Beach Clean Up Captain.  In his role as Beach Clean Up Captain Carl coordinates and trains our volunteers, greets our guests, announces the cleanup logistics, compiles the cleanup data, collaborates with clean up stakeholders (i.e. Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful, Keep America Beautiful, Friends of Jupiter Beach) and serves as the primary point of contact for this program.

Under Carl’s over four-year-watch it is estimated that nearly 10,000 lbs of marine debris was removed through the beach cleanup programs he managed.

Further Carl helped LMC welcome nearly 7,000+ guests to the Blue Friends Monthly Beach Clean Ups, educating many people on the importance of cleaning up our environment, advocating for sea turtles, and recycling debris found on our beaches.

Marine debris is one of the most significant and growing concerns in the field of conservation and given the 9.5-mile stretch of beach LMC monitors is one of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches on the planet, marine debris conservation efforts are absolutely critical in helping to protect and preserve sea turtles and marine life.

Carl is an amazing volunteer and community ambassador who has impacted numerous guests, families, beach goers, and local businesses on the importance of marine conservation, he is so worthy of this award.


Blue Friend of the Year Finalists:

The recipient of the Blue Friend of the Year Award exemplifies significant contributions in marine conservation through work-related activities. Local and National entries recognized.

Teal Kawana

Since her early career, Teal Kawana has worked to defend sea turtles and their habitats. Teal earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Westminster College in 2007. She then continued her education, earning a Master’s degree in Marine Biology with a concentration in sea turtle conservation and biology from Nova Southeastern University in 2013. She earned her Master’s degree while employed full-time in the marine conservation field, displaying her diligent commitment to protecting marine environments through every outlet available to her.

Teal has contributed to marine conservation at several different jobs throughout her career. In 2011, she worked as an FWC certified Wildlife Observer on a marine dredge boat, ensuring the safety of wildlife during construction. From 2011-2015, Teal worked as an Oceanfront Lighting and Marine Turtle Protection Code Enforcement Officer for Key Biscayne, FL. Her efforts to work with property owners, managers, and municipalities on lighting compliance resulted in the entirety of Key Biscayne altering their lights to turtle-safe options by the end of her time working there. Key Biscayne is now Miami-Dade County’s darkest beach, which is likely correlated to the fact that it is also the beach with the highest sea turtle nesting density. Teal then took her efforts to Collier County, FL, working as a Code Enforcement Officer from 2015-2016 there, where her duties expanded beyond sea turtle lighting to other environmental codes, such as mangrove protection, protected species regulations, and vegetation preservation. While working in code enforcement, Teal simultaneously served as a Marine Turtle Specialist with the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program from 2008-2015. As such, she participated in morning nesting surveys to identify crawls, monitor nests, and collect data, as well as responding to strandings and participating in educational events.

In 2016, Teal took her experience and passion for sea turtles to Miami-Dade County, where she now is the Program Manager and Permit Holder for the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (MDCSTCP). In a coastal city as urbanized and densely populated as Miami, taking on the job of a lead conservationist can easily become overwhelming; Teal’s dedication to sea turtles has enabled her to not only fulfill her job’s requirements but to go above and beyond in order to protect this endangered species and inspire others to do so, as well. Teal has brought new life to a formerly outdated conservation program, working tirelessly to obtain funds for new equipment, train staff and volunteers, improve communication with other county and municipality entities, and educate the public. Not to mention, she has done all of this while taking on the demanding role of leading a nesting survey on 18.5 miles of nesting beach.

Throughout this nesting season, Teal has coordinated and participated in an organized nesting survey, during which surveyors identify sea turtle crawls by crawl characteristics, collect data on each crawl, monitor nests daily, and conduct post-hatch nest excavations. In conjunction with coordinating the nesting survey itself, Teal has worked tirelessly this season to communicate and work with county and municipality officials to improve permit and code compliance throughout Miami-Dade County to ensure the protection of sea turtle nests, nesting mothers, and emerging hatchlings. She is also responsible for all stranding events in Miami-Dade County, organizing a response team for each stranding event to data collect and transport live turtles to rehabilitation facilities.

Teal has exceeded the duties of Program Manager, working to make the MDCSTCP a well-rounded sea turtle conservation program by encouraging and taking on supplementary facets that complement nesting surveys. She is currently working with several graduate students to conduct research projects related to sea turtle lighting, which has created an opportunity for diligent data collection that can be used to improve lighting in Miami-Dade County, as well as our understanding of sea turtle behavior in relation to artificial light sources. She also regularly creates and takes advantage of opportunities to reach out to the public and share her love of sea turtles, inspiring people to protect them and their habitats. She organizes regular public hatchling releases, as well as participates in school, summer camp, and other community events. By doing so, she has created a community more aware of turtle-safe practices and inspired others to care about turtles as much as she does herself.

As the Program Manager and Permit Holder of the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, as well as through her previous endeavors, Teal Kawana exemplifies her dedication to marine conservation in her commitment to the continued growth of sea turtle conservation, research, and education efforts. Her passion and perseverance merit recognition, as not only has she had a positive impact on her staff and community, but she’s made a lasting impact on Florida’s nesting beaches and sea turtle population.

Mikki McComb-Kobza

It is with great pleasure that I nominate my friend and colleague Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza for the Blue Friend of the Year Award. I have known Mikki for almost a decade. I first met her when she was a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University. On any given day Mikki might be giving a university lecture or talking to youngsters an elementary school. Her passion for ocean science and communicating wonders of marine life conservation became very clear from the start. She has a long-standing zeal to share her science and the importance of conservation with wide ranging audiences. Getting the message out to know, appreciate and value marine life is her calling.

During her Ph.D. training, Mikki worked tirelessly in the field studying sharks and highlighting incredible stories of their biology, but also their plights and the risks they face from people. She completed her Ph.D. on shark sensory biology and followed up with postdoctoral training at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, yet throughout found time to talks with students, professionals and the general public about marine conservation. It was Mikki’s effectiveness and her scholarship that convinced me to bring her to the LMC as a volunteer on the research committee then for a short time she served on the board of directors. Yet her time with the LMC was short as she and her family (a family of wildlife scientists) moved to Boulder, Colorado. In Boulder, she started a nonprofit organization, Ocean First Institute. The mission of the Institute is ocean conservation through research and education. To date, her team has travelled over a million virtual miles to reach over 100,000 students in 35 countries through their virtual outreach program, sharing “The Truth About Sharks” effectively turning fear into fascination.

The Institute team has also reached nearly 3,000 local students in Colorado with their marine science in-school programming. They teach students how to protect the ocean and their own local environment by living more sustainably. Her organization and she teach that the littlest actions can add up. This positive message resonates well and engages people to make a difference. Mikki also takes the most ambitious students with her on research expeditions to provide hands on experience and training. She has mentored over 200 middle and high school students in sea turtle tagging, shark laser measuring, reef fish identification and and underwater photography (these accomplishments are not easy or minor). Mikki’s energy and commitment seem limitless. She also developed numerous summer camps and recently found great joy in running a “Girls in Ocean Science” camp. It was sold out and was an incredible opportunity to empower young girls to embrace science.

Together lines of evidence make Mikki worthy of this award. While she is a shark researcher at heart, her passion extends to the conservation of many kinds of marine organisms through engagement of kids (including adult kids) and their curiosity. Her goal is help others find their passion and their own personal strength that will contribute to making the world a better place.

Jeff Pantukhoff

Jeff is an international award-winning marine life filmmaker and photographer specializing in dolphins, whales and sharks, and is the founder of The Whaleman Foundation and its Save the Whales Again! Campaign.

In 1995, Jeff founded The Whaleman Foundation (Whaleman), a non-profit oceanic research, conservation, and production organization dedicated to preserving and protecting cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) and our oceans. The Foundation’s primary mission is to raise public awareness while educating key decision-makers on the issues that effect cetaceans and their critical habitats. Whaleman is accomplishing this through its films, public service announcements, and outreach campaigns.

Since Whaleman’s inception, Jeff has written, directed, and produced 7 films on the critical issues facing cetaceans and their environment including “Gray Magic: The Plight of San Ignacio Lagoon”, “Orcas in Crisis: The Plight of the Southern Resident Orcas”, and “Deadly Sounds in the Silent World” which won “Best Short Film” at the 2003 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

Jeff’s latest film featuring Hayden Panettiere is titled “Whale Entanglements: A Deadly Problem” and was premiered and shown to the delegates attending the 2012 meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) resulting in the IWC creating the “International Whale Disentanglement Response Team” of which Jeff is a proud member.

Jeff’s unique images and words have appeared in Ocean Realm, Sport Diver, Discover Diving, and Dive International magazines. His photographs have won several international awards.

Jeff has had the privilege of working with some of the most respected names in the world of underwater filmmaking including Howard and Michele Hall, Bob Talbot, Hardy Jones, and Norbert Wu. Jeff’s film credits include IMAX’s “Into the Deep”, Discovery Channel’s “The Ocean Acrobats” and “Extreme Machines: Raiders of the Deep”, PBS’s “Secrets of the Ocean Realm”, CBS’s Survivor, and Outdoor Life Network’s “Deadly Waters: Whales in Danger”. Jeff’s feature film credits include “Dallas 362”, “Shanghai Kiss”, “Class of 83”, “Whaledreamers” and the Oscar winning documentary “The Cove”. Jeff is currently working on a feature length documentary film.

Jeff is also a dolphin and whale researcher. Since 1996, Jeff has been researching humpback whales with Dr. Marsha Green of the Ocean Mammal Institute studying their social sounds and behaviors and the impacts that vessel engine noise is having on them. In 2009, Jeff partnered with Dr. Roger Payne of Ocean Alliance and Dr. John Wise of the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology at the University of Southern Maine to investigate and research chemical contamination in cetaceans. Since 2010, Jeff has been working with the Hawaiian Islands National Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary on its 10-year study determining the overall health assessment of North Pacific Humpback whales. Jeff’s latest research project is in conjunction with Alicia Amerson of Scripps Institute studying the gray whale migration from Mexico to Canada to help determine the best international guidelines for whale watch companies.

Jeff’s passion, commitment, and dedication keep him on the forefront of marine related issues and interests worldwide. He strongly believes that international cooperation is the key to solving the many issues that face our marine environment and he demonstrates this by donating the use of his images and film footage while working closely with other environmental organizations working on behalf of marine life including Ocean Alliance, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Scripps Institute, and others.

More Information:


Dr. Ken Simmons

Dr. Ken Simmons is a person who truly gives of himself and possess a deep love of the marine environment.  Trained as a veterinarian, he committed his life to the preservation of the health and life of animals, often at personal cost.   Beginning at a very young age, he celebrated the coastal lifestyle of South Florida, appreciating fishing and snorkeling as a privilege. Dr. Simmons love of the sea eventually grew into a need and responsibility to actively protect the ocean for future generations.

In 2015, Dr. Ken Simmons founded Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute, a 501c3 not for profit committed to promoting the preservation of ocean resources through education, research, and technology. Dedicated to sharing the mystery and magic of our oceans with the local community, Ken built the center with his very own hands, even enduring several injuries to his back requiring corrective therapy. He has donated a large quantity of his time, money, and energy breathing life into this new organization.

With his outstanding dedication to educating youth, Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute reached over 1500 students during its first year through marine science based educational programming.  More than 41 research based aquaponics aquariums were used to teach students about Florida’s unique ecosystem and how the ocean impacts our daily lives. This innovative “hands on” STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) based program promotes stewardship and sustainability of our local marine environment while also promoting science based standard learning to students in Palm Beach County.

The Healthy Aquatics also acts a coral conservation farm and aquarium education center with local fish species to highlight and inform the public about the biodiversity found along our shores.  More than 300 different species of fish and 150 different types of corals are housed in the conservation and education wing of Healthy Aquatics. School groups and the local public can visit the center free of charge to learn about our local marine environment and how they can become stewards of our oceans.

Dr. Simmons continues to volunteer his time and energy to the growth of this young organization and, as Board Chair, is always enthusiastic about sharing his passion for the ocean with each new person he encounters. Dr. Simmons consistently works to collaborate with other ocean protectors and organizations to help identify ways to better protect and preserve marine resources. He has indeed proved himself a true friend our blue planet!

Richard Walesky

Nomination 1:
Richard (Rich) Walesky has shown extraordinary leadership in marine conservation for over three decades. He began his career as a biologist at the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (now DEP). In 1987, he was named Director of the newly formed Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (PBC ERM) where he served until his retirement in 2011.

As new Director, Rich recognized the uniqueness and value of the marine resources in PBC. He understood that development pressures threatened the natural features that make Palm Beach County and its offshore waters one of the most desirable places in the world to live and visit.

He knew that these pressures created an urgency to his task of directing the County’s environmental protection efforts and restoring habitats degraded by dredging and other development-related activities.

Rich was a visionary, tenacious, persuasive, and daring Director who put in place many of the policies and programs that make Palm Beach County a model in marine conservation. Thanks to Rich’s leadership, PBC has hundreds of acres of restored mangroves and seagrasses, improved water quality in the Lagoon, thriving artificial reef systems and effectively managed shoreline.

Key areas of marine conservation impact during Rich’s tenure at ERM:

  • Established model shoreline protection program, integrating beach and dune restoration with inlet management to maintain recreational beaches and critical sea turtle nesting habitat.
  • Implemented marine sea turtle monitoring and data collection programs designed to protect and enhance turtle
  • Created programs to protect and monitor natural reef systems; provided funding and organizational support for the Palm Beach County Reef Research
  • Established artificial reef program to create additional marine habitat, relieve pressure on natural coral reefs, and provide unique diving and fishing opportunities. Forty-five vessels, 82,000 tons of concrete and 130,000 tons of limestone boulders have been placed under Rich’s
  • Established environmental restoration programs within Lake Worth Lagoon, a 20-mile long estuary in Palm Beach County that provides critical habitat for marine fisheries and many endangered species including Florida manatees, green sea turtles, and Johnson’s seagrass.
  • Acquired and preserved over 31,000 acres of conservation lands including wetlands and uplands that provide significant water retention and storage  benefits, reducing excessive fresh water surges to brackish estuaries and reducing pollutant loading associated with storm-water
  • Built public advocacy for marine resources through extensive outreach and education programs.

Rich would say that these successes were the result of talented teams working in partnership with management, County Administration and Board of County Commissioners and other governmental entities. That’s true. But it takes leadership, drive and creativity to design and complete successful programs that provide long lasting, positive impacts to the natural environment.

During Rich’s tenure at ERM, he:

  • Set a high bar for research-based marine conservation, giving ERM the considerable policy and program clout it conti’nues to
  • Modeled environmental leadership that has inspired a generation of professionals and civic leaders who have worked with Rich
  • Demonstrated resourcefulness in finding funds. Rich is a master at bringing partners together and matching funding sources in unique ways. Much of what ERM accomplished would never  have happened  without  his vision  and ability to  put deals
  • ·Understood that big ideas involve risk. Rich would complete risk assessments, and weigh the risk/reward and forge ahead if he thought the potential outcome was worth the risk, recognizing that his professional career could be threatened. Rich was willing to navigate political minefields that sometimes doom a person of lesser talent and intellect.
  • Modeled environmental leadership that has inspired a generation of professionals and civic leaders who have worked with
  • Institutionalized environmental management and stewardship into Palm Beach County government and created a foundation for public support for resource protection that hopefully will last well into the future.

Nomination 2:
To the Go Blue Awards Judging Panel: This letter supports Jon Van Arnam’s nomination (above) of Richard (Rich) Walesky for the 2017 Blue Friend of the Year Award for work-related activities on behalf of marine conservation.

As Rich’s resume shows, throughout his career he has worked to conserve our marine heritage.

His greatest impact came as a result of his last position. In 1987, he was named Director of the newly formed PBC Department of Environmental Resources, a post he held until 2011.

During those 24 years, Rich used his deep knowledge, drive, persuasiveness, and ability to see future challenges to get things done.

He set conservation standards, embarked on a myriad of sustainable projects — from beach restoration for sea turtle nesting and artificial reef installations, to cleaning up waterways — and institutionalized stewardship for our unique environmental assets in County policy. He educated the public, persuaded politicians, and provided expert environmental leadership for a new generation of leadership in the County.

Thanks to Rich’s tireless efforts, Palm Beach County residents and visitors can enjoy our green space, natural areas, clean waters, sand and sea. And the world’s sea turtles can return to nest on the PBC beaches where they were hatched!

During my 28-year tenure as County Commissioner, I worked closely with Rich.  No one has done more for marine conservation in Palm Beach County day in day out in the last three decades than Rich Walesky.

Since his retirement, Rich continues to advocate and act. He teaches students of all ages, models best practices, and serves on the Board of Sustainable Palm Beach County, where he brings his considerable energy and knowledge to bear on our marine conservation efforts.

Blue Hatchling Youth Award Finalists:

Recognizes a person under age 17 who has made significant contributions in marine conservation through volunteer related activities.

Sophie Allen

At 16 years of age, a past Blue Hatchling Finalist and a high achieving junior at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Sophie is well on her way to embodying the quote, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Growing up in Palm Beach County and next to the ocean has shaped Sophie into a passionate ocean enthusiast. Not only does she seek enjoyment from the ocean as a certified scuba diver, kayaker and stand up paddle boarder, but she also works tirelessly to educate herself and others on marine issues.  Despite her youth, Sophie has worked for over a decade on assorted volunteer efforts centered on marine conservation, such as coastal cleanup and educational outreach. Simply put: she desires to protect the thing she loves.

Sophie is entering her fifth year of active conservation based citizen science and community service with the Junior Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park.  Because of her long-running commitment at MacArthur Beach State Park, this year she has been chosen as the Chairperson for the Junior Friends at MacArthur Beach State Park. Sophie attends monthly meetings and volunteers regularly in a variety of service activities from removing invasive plant species to restoring the natural beach dunes. As a Junior Friend, she volunteers in MacArthur Beach State Park’s annual Naturescape Festival where she helps with educational activities oriented towards teaching younger kids about the ocean and spreading the word about ocean conservation.  As well as being a long-time participant and now Chair of the Junior Friends, she volunteered her time this summer as a Counselor in Training. There she helped summer camp students appreciate and understand nature, take an active role in the conservation of the environment and provide activities to increase independence, sportsmanship and self-esteem, all centered on the park’s estuarine environment. Last year, Sophie attended 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, as well as the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Conference in San Francisco in their Bright STaRS K-12 Poster Session.  Her science poster presentation highlighted Junior Friends’ citizen science experiment on growing mediums for sea oats and their dune restoration efforts.  For this year’s AGU Conference, Sophie has partnered with her younger sister and submitted an abstract for a project focusing on harnessing the power of the Gulf Stream for alternative energy.  Their abstract has already been accepted and they are currently looking for ways to fundraise in order to cover their travel expenses to New Orleans in December.

Sophie’s passion for the ocean is not limited to citizen science and community service. In recent years, she has used her artistic talents to create marine conservation videos for educational outreach. In 2015, her short film “Shark Souvenirs” was accepted as a finalist in the 2015 Beneath the Waves-Youth Making Ripples 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. Not only did “Little Hope Spots” win the Best Scientific Message category for High School in the 2016 Youth Making Ripples Film Festival, but her video also went on to take second place in the 2016 National Ocean Science Bowl video contest. This past year, Sophie’s videography talents landed her short film “Next Generation” again as a finalist in the Film Festival.  Moreover, through her continued outreach efforts, Sophie has developed a working relationship with the founders of Youth Making Ripples, Lauren Toth and Phillip Gravinese.  In 2016 she volunteered her time to help them spread their educational outreach and ocean conservation message of Youth Making Ripples at the National Marine Educators Association conference in Orlando, and she presented a poster on behalf of Youth Making Ripples at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans.

While in middle school and as part of a winning science project entitled “Tracking Tagged Tiger Sharks” that used real-time shark data from the Guy Harvey Research Institute, Sophie became aware of the role of shark tagging in Florida.  She attended a shark symposium at the University of Miami.  There she became aware of the efforts of UM’s Shark Research and Conservation Program.  Suffice it to say, that Sophie has been “hooked” ever since and as a winner in the 2016 Youth Making Ripples Film Festival, she won the opportunity to volunteer and engage in the University of Miami’s citizen science shark tagging. This shark tagging cruise marked Sophie’s third volunteer research shark tagging cruise.  Of all the ocean conservation activities Sophie participates in, she loves volunteering her time to tagging sharks the best.  Here she seems to be in her element, combining the enjoyment of being out on the water with the science of conservation, working alongside UM graduate students in UM’s to collect and compile data that will eventually help protect sharks.  In addition to tagging, Sophie has sought out leading shark conservationists, such as Jim Abernethy, asking how she might improve her videography skills to help sharks.  In a recent Youth Ocean Conservation Summit at the Mote Marine Laboratory Sophie got the opportunity to hear and meet OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer.  As her videography skills develop, Sophie plans to continue in her efforts to spread the word about the need to understand and protect sharks.

When Sophie is not doing community service, engaging in citizen science, making marine conservation videos, or presenting at conferences, she can sometimes be found dressed up like the Bag Monster in order to draw awareness to the dangers of plastics in our oceans.  She has attended the Lake Worth Lagoon Fest and local Coastal Cleanup events, as well as the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival draped in thousands of plastic bags as part of her outreach.  Moreover, as the co-host of the Bag Monster of SoFlo Facebook page, Sophie has taken to using social media to advocate for the oceans and against the use of plastics. https://www.facebook.com/BagMonstserofSoFlo/

Finally, 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 has helped promote ocean technology and ROV construction at Lantana’s World Ocean Day activities and by mentoring younger students.  In the future, she hopes to pursue an ocean engineering degree to help develop and improve technology that will enable scientists to continue to explore and monitor the world’s oceans.

Olivia and Carter Ries

Provide a description on the nominee’s activities as they relate to marine conservation:
Olivia and Carter got involved in marine conservation after seeing an image of a dead sea turtle being pulled out of the Gulf caked in oil during the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill.  They spent four months collecting badly needed animal rescue supplies and then on Olivia’s eighth birthday they drove 11.5 hours down to the Gulf where they spent five days delivering their supplies and helping at the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Center.  It was there that they learned about the issue of plastic pollution.  Upon their return, they spent four months educating themselves on the issue and hired two teachers and a retired principal and together they authored their award winning Plastic and Recycling Awareness Curriculum for K-6 graders.  Their curriculum is now available nationwide and is even being tested in the UK and soon in Australia.

After learning that an estimated 50,000 sea turtles drown each year by being caught up in shrimp trawl nets, they partnered with Oceana and created a Sea Turtle Letter Writing Campaign, which was made available to schools around the country.  The campaign educated students about the issue and ask students to write to President Obama asking for his help to mandate the use of TED’s (Turtle Excluder Devices).  The campaign received over 12,500 letters and last June the kids were invited to the White House to deliver the letters and President Obama signed legislation into action just before leaving office mandating the use of TED’s in certain shrimp trawl nets.

More recently, Olivia and Carter launched a global OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign in an effort to get people to reduce the number of single use plastic straws they use.  Their campaign has three distinct components designed to reduce then overall straw usage around the world.  The first is for “Individuals” and asks people to sign a pledge stating that they promise to go strawless for 30-days.  The second component is for schools and asks teachers to share the information provided with their students and tasks the students with becoming the teacher in their homes by getting at least one family member to sign the pledge.  The third component targets restaurants and asks them to pledge to only hand out straws upon request.  So far they have received over 3,000 signed pledges from over 45 countries and have garnered the support of over 400 organizations and restaurants around the world supporting their efforts.

Describe how the nominee’s efforts directly or indirectly benefit marine life and/or marine conservation:
The UN recently published a report stating that Plastic Pollution is now considered one of the largest environmental threats facing humans and animals globally.  Each of the initiative listed above both directly and indirectly affects every species living in our oceans and waterways and their educational components provide badly needed awareness that help more people realize the severity of our daily actions and provides them with real-world solutions we can all implement so that we are all immediately being part of the solution.

What are the specific results of the nominee’s efforts?
Over 30 US based schools and community organizations have already implemented the weeklong Plastic and Recycling Awareness Curriculum, which has educated over 75,000 students, and the number continues to grow.  The mandate of TED devices has an immediate impact on the number of sea turtles that are saved from drowning in the nets, not to mention the countless by-catch that is prevented from entering the nest as well.  The immediate and positive impact of their OneLessStraw Campaign is still growing.  With an estimated 500-million single use plastic straws being used in the US every single day (which equates out to 1.6 straw for every man, woman and child living in this country), every person signing the pledge means we have kept an estimated 1,728,000 straws out of the environment in one year and that does not take into account the millions of straws that are no longer being handed out at the partner restaurants.

List any of the nominee’s outstanding contributions to marine conservation:
I think most have been outlined above.  I would encourage you to view their TEDxYouth presentation to get a better understanding of Olivia and Carter passion and commitment to marine conservation.

Skylar Mandell

My nomination for the 2017 Blue Hatchling of The Year Award is my daughter, Skylar Mandell. Skylar is currently a senior at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton. She has always had a passion for the ocean and all of the living things in it. With a strong desire to make a difference in the world, Skylar set a goal, just one short year ago on a beautiful, August day and I am so proud to say that she has accomplished it. Let me tell you how it all began…. During Skylar’s Sophomore year, she applied to a nationally recognized program through our local chamber of commerce. The program was called YEA! -Young Entrepreneurs Academy. http://yeausa.org/about/introduction/

Skylar was very fortunate to have been selected to participate in this prestigious program . She was one of only 24 palm beach county students who were accepted out of hundreds who applied. At the end of the program, Skylar launched a real company, a company of her own, that she created from start to finish. She even had to go on stage and pitch this company in a “Shark Tank” like competition where the sharks were some of Boca Raton’s most prominent, successful business leaders. Sounds scary and intimidating for a 16 year old doesn’t it? Skylar handled herself with poise and portrayed the confidence of a veteran salesperson. She stood out and was awarded for this…This was a BIG accomplishment!

Skylar has always been creative and loved art projects and making things, so naturally her business involved just that.
She started making unique handmade beaded bracelets. She worked really hard on designing items that she knew her friends would want to wear. Every morning before school, Skylar would wear another bracelet that she had made the night before, and every day someone would ask if she could make them one like that too. Before, Skylar knew it, she was in business without even trying. It was then when she decided it was time to take this to another level.

Skylar spent a weekend with her Aunt in Jupiter and went shopping at a local surf shop called Blue Line Surf & Paddle. She noticed that they carried a lot of jewelry from local designers and asked her Aunt if she could speak to a manager. They did just that, and the manager agreed to buy 20 of Skylar’s handmade bracelets. She was overjoyed to see her designs displayed in a surf shop…a surf shop that locals love! This was a HUGE accomplishment! A few weeks later, Skylar received an email from the manager at Blue Line. She wanted to know if Skylar could make more of one specific bracelet…guess what that bracelet was? It was the sea turtle bracelet!

Skylar didn’t know it then, but she was about to embark on the beginning of an incredible journey.

It was time to get to work, so Skylar and I began by placing an order for assorted gemstone beads, some stretch cord, and 100 Howlite sea turtles charms. Skylar started researching sea turtles and was surprised to learn that our state of Florida is home to one of the largest sea turtle nesting populations in the entire world. Ironically, later that evening, as we took a walk on the beach we witnessed the birth of baby hatchlings…it was so incredible. This was the birth of Florida Sea Turtle Company!

Skylar has always had a BIG heart and often thinks about ways she can help in her community. So, she decided that 10% of the proceeds from her bracelet sales would be donated to sea turtle conservation organizations in our state. To date, over 8000 bracelets have been handmade and sold and over $2500.00 has been donated to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, and The Turtle Hospital in Marathon. We personally visited each center to deliver the donation checks. It was so rewarding for Skylar, but also for me as her Mom who has watched her grow into such an amazing person.

Making these sea turtle bracelets became a labor of love for Skylar. The bracelets became known as Sea Turtle Awareness bracelets. Skylar has been educating followers through Instagram and Facebook posts about how the public can help protect this very special marine animal that is endangered.
News about her accomplishments started to spread in our local community and created a buzz
wherever we go.

Florida Sea Turtle Company bracelets are now carried in over 16 stores in the state, including our local Hallmark store. Loggerhead Marinelife Center has sold over 1000 Florida Sea Turtle bracelets in only a year! Florida Sea Turtle Company has participated in many beach clean-ups and now offers community service hours for help beading. Skylar is honored and committed to continue spreading awareness for sea turtles and marine conservation efforts.

Shelby O’Neil

Shelby O’Neil started her passion for the ocean and ocean conservation while attending the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Young Women in Science summer program before her 7th grade school year. Here’s where Shelby learned all of the challenges and issues facing the ocean and the need to spread the word. She returned the following summer for the second year Young Women in Science summer program and this program was focused on ocean conservation. After the program ended, Shelby was determined to continue per passion for the ocean and applied for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Teen Conservation Leader program and was accepted and to-date has volunteered 392 hours greeting guests, working sleepovers and a founding member of their Teen social media team.

In addition to being actively involved with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Shelby is also a Girl Scout. When deciding on her Gold Award Project, Shelby immediately knew that she wanted to spread the ocean conservation message and also have a sustainable project that would continue on years and years. Shelby founded Jr Ocean Guardians to help educate lower grade level children on plastic pollution, recycling and the need for ocean conservation. She created an activity book and patch program for children as a fun teaching tool. In addition to Shelby visiting classrooms, she has recruited Ambassadors to help spread the message of Jr Ocean Guardians. Shelby and her Ambassadors take the activity booklets to schools and beach clean-ups. Shelby’s goal is to educate in-land children who don’t live close to the ocean as they don’t understand how their behaviors can affect the ocean. So far, Jr Ocean Guardians has` distributed over 800 books as well as patches, stickers and buttons. The children are very excited and they all have the same message, “We want to be Jr Ocean Guardians and save the ocean. We love the ocean!” This inspires Shelby and the Jr Ocean Guardian Ambassadors to continue their mission!

Along with the education piece, Shelby took it one step farther and decided to contact corporations and ask them to make one small step that can make a huge impact on our ocean and planet – eliminate the plastic stir sticks. Shelby is currently working with Starbucks, Costco, Delta Airlines, Farmer Bros Coffee and Marriott Hotels to make the switch to a sustainable option and eliminate their plastic stir sticks. Shelby is already make a difference, Costco recently added a sustainable wood stir stick option for their members and they have promised to continue to look into reducing their plastic and promoting more sustainable options. All the corporations that Shelby is currently in contact with have pledged support in looking for sustainable options.

Shelby is currently working on the “No Straw November” movement and has gathered the support of large foundations. Shelby is also working with the California Coastal Commission and will be addressing the Coastal Commission Board on September 15th to talk about the need for awareness on plastic straws/stirrers. Shelby will be visiting over 60 school children on September 19th and Shelby is also working with her Girl Scouts Council and will launch “No Straw November” movement on September 23rd at Elkhorn Sluis and will challenge the Girl Scouts to track how many straws they are offered the month of November and how many times they refuse a straw. She’s currently developing a tally sheet. As Shelby puts it, “It’s all about awareness.”
Jr Ocean Guardians was formed by Shelby and continues to grow as people want to be involved and Shelby has provided a platform where both she and her Ambassadors are making a difference. Jr Ocean Guardians is working towards eliminating as much ocean pollution as possible. You can learn more about Jr Ocean Guardians by reading the blogs at http://www.jroceanguardians.org.

Madison Toonder

I would like to enthusiastically nominate Ms. Madison Toonder for the Blue Hatchling Youth Award. Madison is a 4.0 GPA student at Stanford University Online High School in Florida.

When I was initially introduced to Madison through e-mail, I was immediately impressed by her CV and her writing style. I then spoke with her on the phone about her research interests that deal with wildlife immunity and potential treatments for diseases, and I became even more impressed. Usually, as a researcher, I am apprehensive about working with someone so young. She is the exception. She is kind, friendly, well-read, and a joy to work with. Madison is far advanced beyond her years in a number of aspects including her intellect, her field and laboratory techniques, and her ability to comprehend and interpret scientific data. Madison shadowed me at night during our nightly green turtle surveys. She was inquisitive, ambitious, and needed little guidance on all proper techniques. She was described by a collaborator as a “natural” on the lab bench. It was clear to all involved parties that Madison had a passion for protecting, conserving, and researching endangered species.

Madison has been recognized by the Florida Association of Science Teachers for her “Outstanding Research” and is also involved in a number of conservation groups at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Brevard Zoo. Madison has also won numerous local, state, regional, and national awards for her research projects. She has also written two bills for Florida Congress that set limits on the amount of chemicals allowed in sunscreens. Some of her previous research has dealt with the effects of chemicals in these sunscreens on mollusk filtration rate, behavior, and gape rate.

Madison is currently working with researchers at Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC), University of Miami (UM), and University of Florida (UF) on projects examining new health variables (lipoproteins, betahydroxybutyrate, haptoglobin) in three marine turtle species. She is also investigating how the fibropapilloma virus (a disease that causes large tumors and is common in juvenile green sea turtles) is related to these newly described health analytes. When these projects are complete, she will be a co-author on all resulting manuscripts, a remarkable feat for a high school student. Madison’s work with LMC, UM, and UF researchers will help us better understand the effects of the fibropapilloma virus on marine turtle health. Her results will aid in direct conservation of the species by providing further information to researchers, veterinarians, and diagnosticians on new health analytes and overall health status of marine turtles with this virus. Her results could improve treatment opportunities for facilities that aid in the rehabilitation, recovery, and release of these animals. A global research and conservation priority for marine turtles is to better understand the “etiology and epidemiology of fibropapillomatosis, and how can this disease be managed.” Madison is helping us work towards that goal.

Madison is more than deserving of this award and has the intellect and the drive to be one of the next great researchers. This young and budding scientist is already having an impact in the field of biology and conservation. Just think of the impact she will have on the field of wildlife research and medicine when she has even more experience and education. These types of very rare individuals need all the recognition and opportunities to help them mature and find new avenues to pursue.

Melati and Isabel Wijsen

Description of nominee’s activities and how they relate to marine conservation.
Four years ago, at the ages of twelve and ten, Melati and Isabel Wijsen founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags, a social initiative driven by children focused on reducing the use of plastic bags in Bali, Indonesia.

Bye Bye Plastic Bags is comprised of four key components:

  1. Education

Melati and Isabel have focused their efforts on educating the community of Bali on pollution reduction and alternatives to single-use plastic bags. In addition, they have developed curricula focused on waste management, marine debris, and youth empowerment. They are currently working with the Balinese government to implement the curricula in schools throughout Bali.

  1. One Island, One Voice

One Island, One Voice is an outreach campaign focused on recognizing shops, restaurants, and restaurants that are plastic bag free. Participating restaurants receive a sticker for their door and a “shout out” on social media.

  1. Pilot Village

Melati and Isabel have started a project in the nearby village of Pererenan. Every Saturday they visit and distribute alternative bags to the local shops and businesses. This has proven to be a mutually beneficial project. The Wijsen sisters learn about Balinese culture while sharing information about reducing plastic pollution with the local villagers.

  1. Global

Melati and Isabel work with other students across the globe to help them establish Bye Bye Plastic Bag programs in their communities. To date, there are nine communities across the global participating in the program.

 Describe how the nominee’s efforts directly or indirectly benefit marine life and/or ocean conservation.
One of the most significant threats impacting our ocean today is plastic pollution. Despite the challenges of the marine pollution issue, Melati and Isabel have recognized that it’s a completely preventable problem that they, along with their peers and members of the local community, have the power to address. Marine pollution negatively affects marine life, human health, and the economy of Bali. Melati and Isabel’s actions have proven successful to inspire others to change their habits and significantly reduce their dependency on plastic bags.

What are the specific results of the nominee’s efforts?
Total People Reached: 5,583,000
Beach Cleanup Events: 427
Global Partners: 9
One Island, One Voice Partners: 150

List any of the nominee’s outstanding contributions to marine conservation.
April 2013: Founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags

December 2014: Bye Bye Plastic Bags signed an MOU with the Governor Bali, Bp. Mangku Pastika, to work together to encourage the people of Bali to reduce their use of plastic bags.

May 2015: Launched One Island, One Voice Campaign, Organized a one day cleanup event focused on cleaning all of Bali’s beaches: 12,000 participants, 55 locations, 40 tons of debris removed

June 2015: Received confirmation from the Balinese government announcing that Bali will become plastic bag free by 2018.

September 2015: TED Talk London

April 2016: Melati and Isabel established Bye Bye Plastic Bags in Jakarta, Indonesia

August 2016: Official declaration from government that the Bali Airport is going plastic-bag free

January 2001: Balloons are schedule to be banned from Bali on January 2018

Blue Business of the Year Finalists:

The Blue Business of the Year Award recognizes a business that has made outstanding contributions toward promoting and encouraging conservation, restoration, or preservation of marine life and/or marine ecosystems through their business practices, products or technology.

Engel Coolers

For the past 50 years, people who’ve needed to keep things cold – whether they’re on the water, on the road, or even off road – have turned to ENGEL, the pioneer in portable refrigeration and cooling. With ENGEL’s strong connection to the outdoors, the Jupiter-based company has become involved in promoting and supporting many various marine conservation efforts. As ENGEL has enjoyed great success and growth over the years, they have embraced philanthropic efforts as primary goals. ENGEL is an exemplary representative of a prevailing corporate culture that seeks to contribute to the future enjoyment of our marine ecosystems through their involvement with pro staff, tournaments, NGOs, and associated marine industry companies; which is why they should be nominated for the Blue Business of the Year Award. ENGEL is an official member and sponsor of many organizations, including a State Sponsor of Coastal Conservation Association for Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as the American Sportfishing Association.

ENGEL is a proud donor for the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, in support of their Lionfish Removal incentive programs and events. In addition, ENGEL is currently finalizing a corporate sponsorship of an Everglades restoration group, BullSugar.org, and an active supporter of the Now or Neverglades Declaration. ENGEL sponsors a plethora of events to benefit conservation efforts, most notably the Miami Sportfish Tournament. ENGEL’s pro staff is largely comprised of strong advocates for marine conservation, many of which have championed a litany of topics such as circle hook adoption, gill net ban, sport fish designations, and education on the proper handling of marine life (such as effective catch-and-release fishing). ENGEL’s well-known brand ambassadors, including Jack Hanna, George Poveromo, Mike Anderson, Robert Arrington and many others, are leading purveyors of conservation-minded practice and resource management.

Most notably, ENGEL has partnered with country music star Kenny Chesney to facilitate awareness and funding for coral reef tract health through No Shoes Reefs. By generating funding through the sale of “No Shoes” branded merchandise from ENGEL, No Shoes Reefs donates and supports appropriate groups to further support marine conservation efforts. The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, an organization committed to the building of artificial reefs, recently deployed 100 of their unique four-ton “Coral Head” artificial reef modules, 34 of their four-ton “Fish House” modules, and 1000 tons of boulders offshore of the Jupiter Inlet in South Florida through the support of ENGEL Coolers, Kenny Chesney, and No Shoes Reefs. This is the largest artificial reef deployment to date, and is part of the continuing quest to create new reefs and spawning habitats that are a fundamental piece of marine ecosystems. ENGEL continues to support the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, as well as many others, through monetary donations and lending additional energy and support for public relations efforts to drive awareness.

Behind each of ENGEL’s various involvements are the people of ENGEL Coolers. Founded in 1962 by an ecology/marine biology graduate, Paul Kabalin, the company culture is reflective of a cumulative desire to be proactive. In addition, ENGEL’s Vice President, Mike Dixon, and Vice President of Sales, Rob Bowie, are both dedicated to raising awareness and supporting initiatives for a healthier ecosystem. With an extensive history of active involvement in recreational fishing, Dixon is currently serving a tenure on the SEFCRI (South East Florida Coral Reef Initiative) board. Dixon recently traveled to our nation’s capital with other respected representatives of the marine industry to speak to senators and congressman about the importance of a healthy marine ecosystem, as well as clean water to support vibrant, sustainable fishery stocks and public enjoyment. Working closely with a nationwide network of Coastal Conservation Associations, Rob Bowie spends a significant amount of time with managers and directors to ensure timely activation of regional issues of importance when needed. The company’s passion for marine conservation only starts with Kabalin, Dixon, and Bowie. Each of ENGEL’s employees are invested and dedicated to marine conservation efforts across the United States, making ENGEL a deserving candidate for the Blue Business of the Year Award.

MG Surfline

While many companies today are joining the worldwide effort to increase social and environmental responsibility in the business world, MG Surfline is taking it a step further and making these values the basis of their business. MG Surfline, which produces and sells swimwear and active-wear, states that they operate with a mission “to create high quality waterwear made in an environmentally conscious way, and use business to inspire the desire to contribute to conservation, incorporate sustainability in our way of life, and put into action solutions to our environmental problems.” Founders Alexandra Menk and Melissa Gil both have backgrounds that have fueled their passion for ocean conservation and given them the knowledge necessary to produce active-wear they believe is simultaneously ideal for the consumer and the planet. Menk is an avid participant in watersports, stating, “The Ocean is my playground, my passion, and it is our responsibility to protect it.” Gil is a surfer and professional kitesurfer as well as a marine biologist, and she acknowledges that “protecting the environment is not just my job, it is something that is incorporated in everything I do in my life…”

MG Surfline uses recycled materials to create clothing in a way that is mindful of the goal of reducing the amount of plastic debris in our world ocean. Their products are made using polyester from recycled plastic bottles (some collected via bins at local Palm Beach County businesses), and even their packaging is all recycled. Beyond this, MG Surfline also partners with other businesses and organizations for beach clean-ups as well as using their website, social media channels, and blog to spread awareness about the problems caused by plastic in our ocean and the solutions that we can all work into our daily lives.

MG Surfline is setting an example as a business that prioritizes the health of the environment – specifically the ocean – and the company is using its voice to fight for our blue planet every day.

The Scuba Club

For 45 years, The Scuba Club has proven to be a business that promotes and encourages conservation through its business practices, preservation activities and examples in the community. They were so honored to be a finalist in the 2016 Go Blue Business of the Year Award. Below are the reasons The Scuba Club should be the Blue Business of the Year for 2017!

• As the longest running dive operation in Palm Beach County, they scuba certify hundreds of people each year. In each class, students learn about the beauty and importance of marine life and how to safely and respectfully interact with it. After 45 years, the message of conservation has made a major impact on our community.

• The Scuba Club has been opposed to spear-fishing since it opened in 1972, and continues to stand by the belief that we should not kill the ocean’s natural ecosystem. Spearfishing is only allowed for lionfish, which is an invasive species.

• The Scuba Club’s educated staff are good examples to fellow divers of how to respectfully interact with marine animals and reef systems. They clearly and gently correct divers who are not respectful of the ocean habitat.

• The Scuba Club is active supporters of Lionfish Derbies, which act to deplete the invasive lionfish species on our reefs. They hold their own derbies and reward divers who help to solve the problem. This year, The Scuba Club partnered with LMC to represent their staff in the 2017 Palm Beach County Lionfish Derby and Festival!

• It was such an honor to help LMC release a cute hatchling into the ocean this year and hope to be a part of releases for years to come.

• The Scuba Club encourages their staff, members and customers to clean up the reef as they dive. Many divers bring up trash from the bottom, helping to save the lives of turtles, fish and other marine species.

• JD Duff, co-owner of The Scuba Club, had a film that was shown at the prestigious San Diego Film Festival about the importance of preserving the Goliath Grouper population and keeping the moratorium on groupers. His film was shown alongside films from other famous videographers like Howard Hall.

• The Scuba Club believes that conservation starts with the youth in Palm Beach County. For the past 11 years they have implemented Scuba Camps teaching kids to love and preserve the ocean’s beauty through Discover Scuba classes, Scuba Camps (where kids get certified) and ocean dives.

• Not only is Scuba Camp available for kids to get certified, The Scuba Club offers Scuba Camp for certified divers too. This important yearly camp keeps the excitement of the ocean and its inhabitants in the minds and hearts of our youngest conservationists.

• For the last four years, The Scuba Club has held Scuba Camps during lobster mini-season instead of running trips for those hoping to catch them. They do not support mini-season and believe that the regular season should be shortened on both ends by one month because so many pregnant females are captured.

• The Scuba Club has also reached the college population by teaching scuba certification classes to students at Palm Beach Atlantic University for 41 years! Through The Scuba Club, this important population is taught about the importance of preserving marine life ecosystems.

• Scuba diving isn’t for everyone, so The Scuba Club uses social media to bring the beauty of the ocean to the masses. The staff and members take pictures that are posted to Facebook, Instagram (which has a strong youth, high school and college following) and Twitter that promote conservation, restoration and preservation of our beautiful marine life and ecosystems.

Women of the Wild 

We would like to nominate The Women of the Wild (WoW) for the Blue Business of the Year Award. The WoW is a diverse group of exceptional women who, through their relationships and networking, accomplish positive change by raising awareness and garnering support for critical conservation initiatives affecting our community, our region, and the world. Using an eclectic mix of social events, field trips, volunteering, and fundraisers, WoW promotes conservation across species and habitats. Starting with just a few women in 2014, the group has grown to over 500 women with an incredibly wide range of backgrounds and life experiences. Through commitment to a common purpose and belief that change comes about through the concerted efforts of many, WoW creates a template of empowerment that ensures mission success. They are the dedicated and driving force behind the success of programs and projects supported by Brevard Zoo.

During a visit to the zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center, WoW saw the effects of many threats to sea turtles living along Florida’s coast. The group took specific interest in how fibropapillomatosis, a disease associated with poor water quality, severely impacts green turtles in the nearby Indian River Lagoon. With a new found appreciation for sea turtles, WoW christened this past year as “The Year of the Turtle” and focused their efforts on these threatened species. During “The Year of the Turtle,” WoW continued to support Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center and raised significant funds to support sea turtle health studies conducted by Inwater Research Group and Loggerhead Marinelife Center. These studies examine the connection between green turtle health and the severity of fibropapillomatosis. The goal is to find better ways to help treat turtles with the disease when they are brought to rehabilitation facilities. Without the support of WoW these critical studies would not have been possible. Together, the funding for these projects will result in at least three scientific publications.

The group has also reached out to other conservation organizations to increase their understanding of sea turtles and participated in lectures, events, and sea turtle walks with the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Program, Friends of Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, and the Sea Turtle Preservation Society. WoW has then taken their new found knowledge and worked to spread the message of sea turtle conservation. The diverse group of women has been able to carrying their message into areas of the community not normally reached. WoW has positively impacted sea turtle conservation through their direct support of rehabilitation facilities and local scientists. More importantly, they have become lifelong advocates for sea turtles and marine conservation within our community. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.